Saturday, July 16, 2016
Review for The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
TITLE: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
AUTHOR: Helene Hanff
I loved 84 Charing Cross Road, which is how I discovered Helene Hanff.
About 10 years ago, I went through a phase and read all of her books, including this one. I decided to re-read 84 as well as this one, since it actually has been released on Kindle.
I have a few thoughts going through my mind this time around and one of them is how I didn't like it as much this time around.
The book is in diary form, something I enjoy very much. This is also a very easy read, as it is actually a small book and reads very quickly. I also do like Helene's sarcastic ways, which comes through very well in this story, except that it also, at times, made her sound more like a whiny baby than a woman of 55. At one point, some acquaintances basically spend the day driving her around and I do mean the entire day and when she doesn't get to see the sights she wants to see, she screams out "when am I going to see what I want to see" talk about being ungrateful, not to mention a whiny baby. I never picked up on how ungrateful she was the first time I read the book.
The second thing I noticed more this time around was just how much of a mooch she was. Yes, she was a celebrity of sorts and was always available to her fans, but it was because there was something in it for herself - free meals and being driven around everywhere and again, at no point does she appear particularly grateful.
I do like how Hanff was not a snob, despite having book signings - in fact, you get a strong feel that these are rather the means to an end for her - what got her to London and the rest is kind of background noise.
I love how she describes what she sees in London and how shopping is irrelevant to her - the history and the sights are what counts and she does a marvelous job of making us feel as though we are seeing there with her.
Finally, I was very disappointed with the diary entries and the connection to Marks & Co and the Doels. She barely makes the connections for us and apart from one tiny mention of Doel when she "visits" the now empty bookshop, its like he never existed. IN fact, that whole description of when she visits the bookshop is so inconsequential that she sounds as though she is visiting the local Barnes & Nobles. In fact, the entries are very devoid of emotion - I think I would have more emotion visiting Marx & Co. than she had!
I am not sure if Hanff is self centered and nothing gets to her or if she simply kept those emotions for herself, either way, it makes this book a 3 star read.