Monday, January 16, 2012

Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff

Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff is one of those little books that you can pick up and begin enjoying instantly. No "read 50 pages to see if the story captures your attention" needed. I was laughing out loud by page two.

Helene Hanff is better known for 84 Charing Cross Road, which I have also read and enjoyed. In this book, she traces her life from her early ventures in autodidactism (I may have made that word up--spellchecker doesn't recognize it--but I give spellchecker a withering glance, and use it anyway) to her late-in-life success as an author, after years of financial leanness.

"Q" in this case is Arther Quiller-Couch, author of many books, including lectures on writing and literature.

I love the story of how Hanff, at age 18, selected Quiller-Couch's books from among other similar works. She was working through the authors alphabetically at the library, and must have looked at quite a few of them before she made it to "Q." She eventually purchased all his books, and they planted the seeds of her desire to own and read still other books--many of which she ordered from Marks&Co at 84, Charing Cross Road. As her relationship with the book-shop employees became the foundation of her first truly successful work, and opened many doors of friendship, travel, and opportunity for her, she realized that she ultimately owed "Q" a great deal, on many levels. Thus the title: "Q's Legacy."

This is a short book--I read it through in a day or two, as a light change from Anna Karenina--and I think most enthusiastic life-long readers would enjoy this additional peek into Helene's life, and all that 84 Charing Cross Road meant to her.

I acquired my little paperback copy of this book via a generous giver at Bookmooch, and penned inside the front cover is the brief notation "London, Foyles, 1991." On my brief trip to London in 2009, I spent an evening in Foyles--a truly wonderful memory--and I'm pleased to know this book about Helene Hanff comes from a place I've visited, on Charing Cross Road itself!


At 1:01 AM , Blogger Carol in Oregon said...

I love this book! George Grant, a teacher I follow, has talked about "Q" a lot, always with passion.

And I love Hanff's tone.

Thanks for reviving wonderful memories.


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