The ultimate booklover

I have had another few jolly nights with Helene Hanff. This is "Q´s Legacy", a follow-up memoir to "The Duchess of Bloomsbury" (about her first trip to London) and "Underfoot in Showbusiness" (about her failed career as a playwright, I haven´t read that one yet). She is as funny as ever, as she tells the story of how "84, Charing Cross Road" found its way to television and theatres and finally, she got to stand on a stage and "the audience rose to her".

It´s also a story of a girl who loves books, not any books, but diaries, memoars and books by people telling it the way they lived it. The kind of books she ended up writing herself. No wonder, really, that she never made it as a playwright. I don´t think she ever tried a novel, because she writes: "I didn´t like novels. (I subscribe to Randall Jarrell´s definition of a novel as 'a prose narrative that has something wrong with it'.)" She does, however, love Jane Austen, a testiment to Austen´s greatness if I ever heard one!

The Q of the title is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a professor of English literature at Oxford whose published lectures she stumbled on in the local library as a young girl in search of a teacher who can teach her to write. It is her ambition to read what Q´s recommended to her that draws her to the business and correspondence with Marks & Co in London, and that is the making of her as a writer, really. And after years of visiting the Literary London, reading plaques commemorating the famous authors at their famous places, she finally gets a plaque of her own, at 84, Charing Cross Road. And now I have a new thing to go look for next time I get to London!

 In the final chapter, more of a post script, really, she reflects on her late life´s successes and she writes: "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. "

So, in the end, it´s all about the books and the love of books and how it can totally shape one life. Highly recommended.

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