The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
This newly reissued cult favorite, which now includes an introduction by Plum Sykes, is a delightful diary—think Nancy Mitford-meets-Nora Ephron—chronicling author Helene Hanff’s “bucket list” trip to London (at the age of fifty-five!) after the unexpected success of her memoir 84 Charing Cross Road.
When she’s invited to London for the English publication of her wildly successful book, 84 Charing Cross Road—in which she shares two decades of correspondence with Frank Doel, a British bookseller who became a dear friend—New York writer Helene Hanff is thrilled to realize a lifelong dream. The trip will be bittersweet, because she can’t help wishing Frank was still alive, but she’s determined to capture every moment of the journey.
Helene’s time in London exceeds her wildest expectations. She visits landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle; explores Shakespeare’s favorite pub, Dickens’s house, and the Oxford University courtyard where John Donne used to walk; and makes a host of new friends from all walks of life, who take her to the theater, introduce her to institutions like Harrod’s, and share with her their favorite corners of countryside.
A love letter to England and its literary heritage, written by a Manhattanite who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (or tell a British barman how to make a real American martini), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is an endearing account of two wildly different worlds colliding; it’s an outsider’s witty, vibrant portrait of idiosyncratic British culture at its best, as well as a profound commentary about the written word’s power to sustain us, transport us, and unite us.