Helene Hanff - Reviews

Helene Hanff – Reviews

I recently went on a bit of a Helene Hanff binge. I, of course, had previously read and really love 84, Charing Cross Road, and I wanted to see if her other works were as good. I read every book by her I could get my hands on. I managed to read the following five books, in the following order, with varying degrees of delight. I recently obtained her remaining adult work, Underfoot in Show Business, but haven’t read it yet.

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Title: Letter from New York
Author: Helene Hanff
Pages: 148
Publisher: Moyer Bell
Copyright: 1995
Format: Paperback
Rating: [rating:4]

After the success of 84, Charing Cross Road, the BBC asked Helene Hanff to write segments about her life in New York for BBC’s British audience. This book collects many of the transcripts from those segments. They are delightful, charming, and warm. It made me really see New York. It had more of the delightful, light tone of 84, Charing Cross Road. I would have loved to listen to them on the radio. A couple of them, particularly the ones about her relationshing with a neighbor’s dog, brought me to tears. I would definitely recommend this little book to lovers of 84, Charing Cross Road.

Letter from New York, by Helene Hanff [rating:4]

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Title: Q’s Legacy
Author: Helene Hanff
Pages: 192
Publisher: Penguin Group
Copyright: 1986
Format: Paperback
Rating: [rating:3]

Helene Hanff comes to us with another book – ostensibly about reading, but mostly about her second trip to England. I probably should have read The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (about her first trip to England) before I read this one. She seems to assume in this book that the reader has, in fact, read Duchess and fails to really introduce major characters. Also, I was slightly annoyed that this book contained many of the exact same antecdotes told in Letter from New York. Now, granted, she didn’t initially intend to publish the tidbits from Letter from New York, but still, it made things a little repetitious. This book was just okay for me.

Q’s Legacy, by Helene Hanff [rating:3]

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Title: Apple of My Eye
Author: Helene Hanff
Pages: 144
Publisher: Moyer Bell
Copyright: 1989
Format: Paperback
Rating: [rating:2]

In this book, Helene Hanff was commissioned to write a travel guide to New York, written by a “real” New Yorker. Unfortunately, it is more of a travelogue of Hanff’s travels to actually see the tourist sites in New York. It was not well organized, fairly boring, and completely unusable as a travel guide. And, of course, this was written in the late 1970s, so New York is a very different animal. I just can’t find a reason to recommend this one at all – unless you’re interested in Helene Hanff for academic reasons. (And, I must mention that antecdotes from Letter from New York AND Q’s Legacy are repeated here!)

Apple of My Eye, by Helene Hanff [rating:2]

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Title: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
Author: Helene Hanff
Pages: 144
Publisher: Moyer Bell
Copyright: 1995
Format: Paperback
Rating: [rating:3]

I think timing had a lot to do with my lukewarm feelings about this book. If I had read this immediately after 84, Charing Cross Road, I might have liked it a little more. As it was, it was the fourth Hanff book I had read in a row, and I was a bit tired of her voice. This book did, though, have many touching moments. It was fun to see Helene’s awe of her fame. It was amazing to see people’s hospitality and her interaction with her fans. Also, this book made me realize that I am far too uneducated to fully appreciate a trip to England. :) In all, this is a nice book about nice things that happen to a nice person. But I wasn’t awed.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury, by Helene Hanff [rating:3]

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Title: Butch Elects a Mayor
Author: Helene Hanff
Publisher: Parents Magazine Press
Copyright: 1969
Format: Hardback
Rating: [rating:3]

This is a cute children’s book about Butch, a little boy whose father is running for mayor of New York. Butch tries to help, but ends up causing a lot of trouble. In the end, though, he is able to help his father win the election. As I said, this story is cute. The illustrations are a little dated, but it’s well done overall.

Butch Elects a Mayor, by Helene Hanff [rating:3]

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Other Reviews:
At Home with Books
(84, Charing Cross Road; The Duchess of Bloomsbury)
Jenny’s Books
(84, Charing Cross Road & The Duchess of Bloomsbury)
Rebecca Reads
(84, Charing Cross Road & The Duchess of Bloomsbury)