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Daphne DuMaurier Visits Charing Cross Road

booksI have thousands of books for sale at One More Chapter, and although I’m the quintessential bookworm, I obviously haven’t read most of them. So I’m always excited when I sell a book I have particularly enjoyed.

That happened in 2008 when Jonna ordered “The House on the Strand” by Daphne DuMaurier.

As I packed her order I included a gushing little sentence or two. “I loved this book! I am so excited to connect with another Daphne DuMaurier fan!”

What fun it was to get a reply from Jonna a couple of weeks later! She said “I had a Helene Hanff moment when I received your note.”

As a bookseller, I was dizzy with delight!

Helene Hanff was an American woman who ordered a book in 1949 from Marks & Co, a bookseller at 84 Charing Cross Road in London.  A 20 year pen pal friendship developed between Helene and the bookstore manager, Frank Doel, along with other staff members of the book store. They exchanged chatty letters, Christmas presents and birthday wishes. Helene even sent food parcels to help her friends through the food shortages that occurred as a result of WWII.

Charing Cross RoadHelene Hanff tells the story in “The Dutchess of Bloomsbury Street” and it is wonderfully retold in the movie, “84 Charing Cross Road”, starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.

As a bookseller I do get repeat customers from time to time, and they sometimes include personal comments.

I have communicated with a woman in Scotland who lives a few streets away from where my mother grew up and knows members of my mom’s family.

And I have sporadic communication with Father Eugene, a nice Catholic Priest, who ordered a book from me, and then found this blog and continued our communication.

But best, and most consistent of all, has been my long distance friendship with Jonna. It’s not a trans-Atlantic affair like Helene Hanff had with the staff of Marks & Co, but she does live quite a distance from this western edge of the United States.

For six years Jonna and I have exchanged notes and cards. I mourned with her when her beloved dog passed away, prayed for her when she embarked on a big career change, and I rejoiced with her when she actually got the chance to travel to England and see 84 Charing Cross Road.

pen palRecently I received a brown paper package tied up in string. It was a lovely little box my friend had created for me, along with a beautiful card and a recipe for a new kind of bread she had tried. It made my heart sing! I wondered that she could know my tastes and likes well enough to put together such a perfectly unique and personalized gift.

Since then, we have found one another on Facebook and become friends in this new way. Part of me is kind of sad. You know how I sometimes scream about the changes technology has brought about. (Although I can’t scream too loud since I’m writing a BLOG post.)

But I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of Jonna and her new husband, and new job. Seeing the things she “likes” and “posts” on FB.  But I am also looking forward to stamping a letter and posting it from an old fashioned mail box, or putting some cookies in a box and sending them her way.

It’s a Helene Hanff kind of a thing.