Only occasionally do I find a book that so captures my heart in its simplicity that I finish it laughing, crying and hugging my copy all at once.
When I came across a recommendation for 84, Charing Cross Road, I was intrigued and ordered a copy. It was an unassuming little thing and I admit to being doubtful. I opened it where I stood...and was transfixed. I honestly could have read it unmoved right then and there but, thankfully, life has a way of interfering and I was able to savor it over three day's time.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is simply a collection of letters between a brash New York writer and a London book store. The letters begin a few years after WWII as a result of an inconspicuous ad in the newspaper and end 20 years later. During that time relationships were forged that were to impact, not only the letter writers, but many others around them.
By the way, this book so touched Anne Bancroft that her husband bought the film rights to it for their anniversary and Anne played the starring role. I believe the movie can be watched in full on YouTube as well as hearing the entire book read.
I've long believed that books have the beautiful ability to bind together people from all walks of life...family, friends, the albeit rare shopper in the grocery line, even someone across the sea. Even during a time long ago when books were so scarce and expensive the average family could never afford one, communities would pool their money for a copy and gather together in anticipation to hear it read aloud. Imagine how that community would benefit from their common culture.
In this time of financial upheaval, books can send us on voyages to anywhere in the world and even beyond it for the mere pennies it takes to purchase it. We can travel with anyone within the sound of our voice. We laugh and cry and exchange glances across the room over favorite passages...together.
Our society is so fractured. It is a beautiful thing when we can find a common bond that ties us to those around is. Books can serve to bind our hearts together at a deep and lasting level.