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Our April Spent In England

Hello Friends, My partner and I have been away touring in England for the month of April and we enjoyed it very much. One thing I love to do, as a reader, is to search out places I’ve read about in books. I also like to walk and stand where important events in history have happened, and I always plan part of my trip around these often-hidden gems of history.

We spent four days touring London, and my greatest wish was to find a little book shop Helene Hanff wrote the book about called 84 Charing Cross Road. If you haven’t read this book, it is definitely worth the read. I loved it! The story is based on actual events.

Helene Hanff was a struggling author in New York around the time of WWII. Of course, there was no email or Amazon in those days, so whenever Helene wanted a rare book, she wrote a letter and mailed it to 84 Charing Cross Road, which was a used bookstore in the heart of London. She would enclose money or sometimes, a cheque to pay for the book and shipping, and also, being a writer, she would share something of her life in her letters.

The book shop clerks began to look forward to Helene’s letters and began to share bits of their own lives as well, and friendships were made through the letters. When WWII hit, London, of course, was bombed, many foods and other items were rationed, and Helene began to hear of the difficult times through the letters. As any good friend would, she began to ship some of the missed and needed items to her book shop friends. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a wonderful and heart-warming story, and I wanted to see if the book shop still existed this many years later. Before we travelled, I researched the bookshop and looked it up on Google Earth to get a street view of it. I wasn’t sure we’d be anywhere near it and/or if we would have time to visit it. Fortunate shone upon me on our last touring day and we found ourselves near Soho, and with a few extra hours on our hands. (In other words, it was meant to be that I would find this book shop.) It was an amazing feeling to just stand outside the bookshop and watch people walking in and out. I took a few deep breaths and stepped into the shop knowing the history and the wonderful book Helene had written. Of course I had to explore and found the photos of the movie on the wall, as you can see from the photos. The shop is exactly what an old English bookstore should be like - overflowing with books and people browsing, with a wonderful book dust smell that promises good things to read. I could feel the history and presence of the thousands of readers who have darkened the doorway. Truthfully, I got very emotional inside and once I stepped out of the door I burst into tears. But it was tears of joy and excitement and the connection of books and reading, past, present and future.

Of course, I bought books! And I also spied a cloth bag for sale with an illustration of the bookshop on it. I bought that was well. It was the best £20 (20 pounds) I’ve ever spent! Also, this and another similar experience were two highlights of my trip!

Incidentally, the book was made into a movie in 1987 and starred Anne Bancroft as Helene and Anthony Hopkins as the manager of the bookshop. If you haven’t read the book and seen the movie, I highly recommend doing both. Happy reading! 💖💖 Mary


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