The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

Rating: 0

Helene Hanff

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is the sequel to Hanff's better known book, 84 Charing Cross Road. The first book was a collection of letters between Helene, living in New York City, and a bookseller in London who she orders books from and eventually develops a friendship with. It isn't clear to me whether the books are autobiographical or not. The sequel is about Helene's trip to London to promote 84 Charing Cross Road. Helene has had a lifelong dream of visiting London and she wants to make the most of the trip. The book is her diary of the time she spends in London.

The plot of the book is relatively uneventful; it reads like an average, though well written, trip diary. It's the type of book that makes me want to be more conscientious about trip diaries (or diaries in general), particularly since many entries aren't that long. Much of the plot is accounts of sightseeing trips and people that Helene meets.

I think there are two main attractions to the book: seeing London through enthusiastic eyes, and watching the reclusive and unfashionable Helene try to get a handle on being a celebrity for a month. The title of the book comes from Helene labeling herself the Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (the street her hotel is on) to make fun of her popularity and the social demand for her.

I suspect that this book would not be that interesting to people who haven't read 84 Charing Cross Road (which I recommend very highly). However, if you have read that book, this is another book in the same style. I enjoyed it, but felt that there wasn't nearly as much to it as the previous book. I probably have to rate it a '0', but given how short and pleasant it was, I'm still glad that I read it.


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