Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Q's Legacy - Book Review

Q's Legacy
Helene Hanff
Little Brown & Co 1985
Penguin 1986

Another parcel of books arrived from my favourite online bookstore. It arrived at 1pm lunch time today. I grabbed the one book I have been waiting 20 years to read. I read it in 5 hours even while I was working. The book is called Q's Legacy.

I fell in love with Helene Hanff and her letter writing campaign to buy books, in the movie 84 Charing Cross Road when I first saw it back around 1988. Over the next 10 years I found and read copies of all of Helene Hanff's books except two. I read 84 Charing Cross Road, Duchess of Bloomsbury, Underfoot in Showbusiness, and Apple of My Eye. I still have not read Letter from New York, and today I have finally read Q's Legacy.

I loved it.

It made me laugh. Helene was a wonderful writer - she died in 1997. This book is her autobiography. She writes about high school in Philadelphia and finding Q (Arthur Quiller Couch) in the public library. How she learnt to write plays, and how not to write prose. She writes about going to Secretarial School, and hating it, and then spending the next three years working in various offices as a secretary in Philadelphia. All this takes up 8 pages.

The rest of the books details her life in New York, her struggle to be a famous playwright, her correspondence with Marks & Co, and eventually how she came to write each of her books. She also writes about the stage plays based on 84 Charing Cross Road that have been produced in UK and New York. It was a hit in London, but not in NY. Understandable because 84 Charing Cross Road is an English address, not an American one.

This is not a long book - barely 180 pages. As I said, I read it in 5 hours. If I had not been working, I would have probably finished it in 3 hours.

If you have ever wanted to know more about Helene Hanff, and the origins of 84 Charing Cross Road, then this is the book to read.

HH Website


Tara said...

I loved this book! I discovered and read many of Hanff's books last year. All the same ones you've read except Underfoot in Showbusiness. I just adore her and her writing and like you I read this one last. I keep meaning to watch the film version. I also favor the same online bookshop.

Danielle said...

I've had this post saved in my bloglines for weeks now! I love Helene Hanff and have read pretty much all of her books. Your post reminds me how much I really need to reread her books! Thanks.