I was shaken by what I suddenly knew: If I live to be very old, all my memories of the glory days will grow vague and confused, till I won’t be certain any of it really happened. But the books will be there, on my shelves and in my head — the one enduring reality I can be certain of till the day I die.
Q’s Legacy, page 177
Last year, a good friend loaned me a copy of 84, Charing Cross Road, and it proceeded to sit on my bookshelf for far too long (half a year? longer?) before I picked it up to read. It’s a small, unassuming book, and I am constantly inundated by library books that are always coming up for return before I can finish them. But I finally pulled it off the shelf, and I was instantly filled with remorse. Why did I wait so long to read this charming little collection of letters? It was over in two sittings, and I wished Helene and Frank had more letters to share with me, more of themselves and their lives to impress on me.
Frank merely worked in a bookshop, and thus didn’t write anything else for me to devour, but Helene wrote a couple of other books, and I was especially interested in her memoir, Q’s Legacy. When that one arrived at the library, I started reading it immediately, and I’m so glad I did. It reads like a love story to books and to London, and if you love either, you’ll be enchanted. I highly recommend both of these books, in the order I read them, and look forward to reading the rest of Hanff’s works in the months and years to come.