November 18, 2016

Connecting through letters

Over a year ago, I stumbled across a website entitled Slightly Foxed and was immediately intrigued. It's a quarterly magazine full of book reviews except these books aren't new releases. In fact, a large number of the books mentioned in the magazine are out of print and the authors aren't necessarily well-known. As with most things that I adore, Slightly Foxed originates in England and the book reviews (not to mention the books themselves) definitely reflect the English mentality. They're heartfelt, sardonic, thoughtful, and intelligent. Besides the quarterly magazines, you can also order from a limited selection of cloth bound novels. These are classic memoirs which have been reviewed by the magazine. By the way, they did not ask me to write this post. I've been trying to figure out for a while how I was going to plug them and I've finally gotten around to it.

Last year, I ordered the entire year's worth of magazines and the book 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Firstly, the magazines themselves are superb. Lovers of literature and those that might be looking for a new read that is unlikely to be stumbled upon in a chain bookstore will love Slightly Foxed. Secondly, if you haven't read 84, Charing Cross Road then you MUST GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY. I had never even heard of this book or this author until I read the review of it in SF where my interest was piqued. The book consists of letters sent between Helene who lived in New York and a man named Frank Doel who worked at an antiquarian bookstore called Marks and Co in London. The first letter was sent by Helene in 1949 and their correspondence continued for 20 years. Eventually, other coworkers from the store would start writing letters to Helene and she would develop a friendship with Frank's wife and daughters. I was so moved by these letters. They were real and beautiful. Helene is hilarious and crotchety. Frank comes across as uptight and somewhat aloof (until Helene breaks him of that). The second half of this book which was not a part of the original print...well I don't want to spoil it for you. Let's just say that it was extraordinarily easy for me to see myself in Helene's place. This is a woman that wrote from the heart and it's like...gosh. Ya'll I can't find the words to describe just how much I loved this book. I want to start right back at the beginning and I just closed the back cover. This has high rereadability. (Google tells me that isn't a real word but I refuse to believe that.) Go forth, readers. You won't regret it. 11/10

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **


  1. I will not only try the book, but next time i go to town I will try and get a photo of 84 Charing X Rd. I had heard of the book and thought the address was Foyles but I may be wrong.

    1. I think I read that it's since been knocked down and turned into a McDonald's. I think the only indication it was there is a small plaque like the ones they put on historical landmarks. I'd LOVE a pictures of that though!