Saturday, August 26, 2006

Book Review: "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street"

Helene Hanff's sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road (review), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is Hanff's journal from her eventual trip to London, where she's wined, dined, toured and fussed over by friends old and new. Like 84, it's a charming little book which cannot fail to delight the reader; Hanff's style and effusive wit are addictive. This one doesn't have much of anything to do with books, more's the pity - but it's good just the same.

I have to add just a couple samples of Hanff's musings, the ones that made me laugh out loud:

- "I ordered 'Chicken Maryland,' which turned out to be a slice of chicken, braided and fried flat like a veal cutlet, accompanied by a strip of bacon and a fat sausage. Dessert was 'Coupe Jamaica,' I didn't order it but the couple at the next table did: a long, narrow cookie sticking up out of a ball of vanilla ice cream that rested on a slice of canned pineapple. It would probably confuse Jamaica as much as the chicken would confuse Maryland."

- After suffering through quite a hassle trying to have a check cashed: "Nothing infuriates me like those friendly, folksy bank ads in magazines and on TV. Every bank I ever walked into was about as folksy as a cobra."

- Walking around London on July 4: "... was walking down Waterloo on my way to St. James's Park when who should I run into, standing on a corner on a little pedestal looking small and spruce, but Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne who lost the Battle of Saratoga to us rebels. I think he was supposed to link up with some other general's forces but there was a snafu and Burgoyne's entire army was captured ... Can't imagine what possessed the British to put up a statue to him, I suppose he won some battle somewhere but he lost the American Revolution almost singlehanded. Wished him a happy Fourth."

Will have to hunt up some other Hanff books now, as I've enjoyed these two so well.