"The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street"

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

I'd been intending to read this for months but didn't get around to buying a copy, then a friend at book club handed me one with both Duchess and it's predecessor 84, Charing Cross Road in it. 84 is one of my all time favourite books. It's epistolary, which I find romantic and endearing probably because I never receive a letter from one year to the next - why are we letting technology rob us of this simple pleasure?

I love these books because they are beautifully, perfectly written. The author has a light touch with sufficient wit to pull it off, and writes with such clarity and descriptive ability that you are transported to the time and place of writing. 84 is a series of letters between the author and the London bookshop where she orders her reading material; Duchess is a journal of her long-awaited trip to London to meet her correspondents and promote her first book.

I hear the word "delightful" used a lot in book reviews but, being a person whose reading material tends to be a bit more on the serious (others might call it morbid, but what do they know?) side, it didn't really mean much to me until I read 84, Charing Cross Road. That was 90 pages of sheer happiness, which led me to seriously question if any sequel could be as wonderful. I'm happy to say The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is. The writing, the setting and the author's personality all add up to 120 pages of even more happiness. I feel very much as if I'd spent a month in London with Miss Hanff myself. She positively jumps off every page.

I'm told there is one more book in this series; now I have to make the difficult decision of when to read it. Once I do, I'll be done and there will be no more. I haven't felt this indecisive since I finished The Two Towers and sat staring at The Return of the King wondering how long I could hold out. I gave in within the hour and probably won't do any better with this one. Some things are just too wonderful to wait for.


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