It’s not proper for me to call you by your first name, without even a ‘miss’ or ‘ms’, but as I know you’re not fond of that degree of properness, I hope you’ll excuse me.
I found a copy of your delightfully charming book, 84, Charing Cross Road, as I was browsing at an op shop, and I immediately purchased it. I’d acquired a copy of it from the library some time before, and it was hard to give back, a feeling I think you know. So it was exciting to find a copy I could keep in good conscience, and how fitting that I got it second-hand for a cheap price, being the poor student that I am! It was only when I got the book home, that I realized that it also included the sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road, namely The Duchess of Bloomsbury. I’d definitely scored!
Helene, you finally made it to London! I’m glad you got there, although it was disappointing to read your description of the empty desolate bookstore. It would’ve been such a fitting ending to have you arrive at the store you’d so long imagined, and see the shelves that housed the books, the hands that packaged your parcels; to see in it action, a word which must be one of your favourites, it fits you so well. Nevertheless, it was good to read that you finally made it to London, saw the places you wanted to see, experienced the city, met friends, and were treated as royalty. Tell me, what does it feel like to be famous?
Your descriptions of London, the surrounding places and countryside, deepened my desire to experience it for myself one day. Perhaps I’ll have to wait until I write a book and get famous. And your reaction to making it to London: it was like you had come home, and every page, I expected to read that you’d decided to make your stay there permanent. But then you were always comparing it to your New York home. Which one felt more like home? Did you ever miss London, or go back?
I’ve now read 84, Charing Cross Road twice, and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street once, and I can envisage myself reading them again – perhaps curled up with a blanket with a holey woollen jumper and unfashionable slacks (yes, I wear them too), dreaming of books and knowledge, and faraway places. It’s such an uncharacteristic non-fiction story, and tells so much about you all simply through your correspondence.
You’re unconventional, and perhaps a little explosive and self-willed at times, which a little less gin may have helped. But I have to say, Helene, the world, especially our modern age, needs more people like you. We need people who put their all into everything, who take opportunities to put a smile on someone else’s face, and who thoughtfully provide for other’s needs –from pork to pantyhose. And we could use a little more written correspondence and appreciation for quality literature too.
Thank you for entertaining and inspiring me. All the best always,
So, have you read 84, Charing Cross Road or The Duchess Bloomsbury? Do you enjoy epistolary books? What have you been reading lately?