84, Charing Cross Road Book Summary

Post Last Updated: November 21, 2021

84 charing cross road book review

84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters Helene Hanff, an aspiring playwright in the 1950s in New York, wrote to a used-book dealer in London during the time 1950 to 1970.

The book sheds light on the relationships formed overseas, and the communication that took place during the 1950s and 1960s.

In the 21st century, we live in a digital world, where communication is instant and less personal than in previous centuries.

With handwritten letters and storytelling, relationship building and communication was much different in the past!

In 84, Charing Cross Road, we learn about the struggles of long distance relationships, the impact of our interactions, and why good-bye can be temporary.

The rest of this post includes a summary of 84, Charing Cross Road, takeaways from 84, Charing Cross Road, and a reading recommendation for you.

Book Summary of 84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and the workers and family members of a used-book dealer in London at 84, Charing Cross Road.

Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, Helen and the workers share a friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship is captured throughout the book as they share information about their families, their activities, and their hopes and dreams.

Over the span of 20 years, Helene and the book dealer’s main dealer, Frank Doel, write to each other with information on which books are in stock, which books Helene wants, and what Frank is doing to get those books.

Helene always gives Frank a hard time and is witty and silly with her writing. The other workers of the dealer love her writing and send her letters saying how much they wish they could meet her.

Helene sends gifts (food, clothing) for the holidays and continues to write letters to and purchase books from the store.

Over time, a bond forms and both sides continue to write. As the years go on, the friendships formed in the early years decline. Families mature, some of the workers pass away or move on to new jobs, and Helene becomes busy with work.

By the end of the book, the friendship is still there, but the communication and correspondence has faded.

Takeaways from 84, Charing Cross Road

With every book you read, it is a must to have takeaways and actionable items to implement in life.

84, Charing Cross Road is a storybook about friends who never meet and end up falling apart due to distance and time.

The two main takeaways from 84, Charing Cross Road for me were:

  1. You never know the impact of your actions on others.
  2. Even though we sometimes fall out of friendship with other people, this doesn’t mean we aren’t still friends today.

Let’s dive more into each of these takeaways.

You Never Know the Impact of Your Actions

In 84, Charing Cross Road, the members of the bookstore in London were touched and moved by ever letter sent by Helene. They loved the way she wrote, her gifts, and her passion for reading. Likewise, Helene enjoyed the letters she received back from the Londoners.

They were friends from across the Atlantic Ocean, but never ended meeting due to money concerns.

While writing letters, interacting, and sending gifts didn’t take much energy, and wasn’t a huge priority for Helen, it provided endless joy and made a huge impression on the workers in the book store in London.

Throughout your everyday interactions and conversations, understanding that your personality and decisions can have huge positive influences and impacts on others can be a big perspective change, and make the world a better place.

Saying Good Bye Doesn’t Mean the End, It Means Until Next Time

In 84, Charing Cross Road, there were multiple years that passed between letters at some points. The relationships and emotions were still there, but they had faded. Eventually, the letters stopped altogether.

While the relationships faded, this doesn’t mean that they are gone. All it means is that the time isn’t right for now.

The takeaway here is never to burn bridges and say instead, “now isn’t the best time for our relationship (friendship, romantic, work, etc.), but I valued our time together. I learned a lot from our experiences together and in the future we will see each other and bond again.”

Good bye doesn’t mean bye forever – it means until next time.

Our Recommendation for 84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road is a simple story yet an interesting tale. It’s a classic and was highly recommended to me. I enjoyed it and it was a quick read.

While I like typically enjoy self help books, this was a great change-up for me. Not all books need to be super informative, nor do they have to have concrete tips for personal growth.

If you enjoy stories and tales from the past, this book is a great read. 84, Charing Cross Road left an impact on my life, and I hope it will be beneficial for your life as well.

Readers: take time to reflect on your relationships today. Reach out to loved ones who haven’t experienced your love lately.