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Mr Bigelow was the father of Frances Woodsford’s American penfriend; hearing he was old and lonely she started to write to him in 1947, the letters stopping only with his death in 1961. The letters reveal her life (dotty mother, exasperating brother, awful boss, boring job) and are a wonderful read, each letter carefully crafted, informing Mr Bigelow of events in Bournemouth with some lovely set-pieces, the saga of learning to drive and the dreadful first car and her brother’s many girlfriends.
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84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Dear Mr Bigelow is an enchanting selection of weekly 'pen-pal' letters written between 1949 and 1961 from an unmarried woman working at the Pier Approach Baths in Bournemouth, to a wealthy American widower, living on Long Island, New York. Frances Woodsford and Commodore Paul Bigelow never met, and there was no romance - she was in her forties when he died aged ninety-seven - yet their epistolary friendship was her lifeline. The Saturday Specials as Frances dubbed them, are brilliantly-packed missives, sparked with comic genius, from post-war England. We follow her travails at the Baths (and her ghastly boss Mr Bond); the hilarious weekly Civil Defence classes as the Cold War advances; her attempts to shake off Dr Russell, an unwanted suitor; life at home with Mother, and Mac, her charming ne'er-do-well brother; and, escapades in their jointly-owned car, a 1934 Ford 8 called Hesperus. Most importantly, we get to know Frances - and her deep affection for Mr Bigelow. She started to write to him as a way of thanking his daughter for the clothes and food parcels she sent. But what had begun as a good turn offered Frances the chance to escape a trying job, and to expound with elegance, wit and verve on topical subjects from home and abroad, bringing us a beady commentary on her life and times that leaps vividly from the page. Her letters to Mr Bigelow during his final illness are a tender and moving farewell, a touching conclusion to a unique record.
Publication date: 01/10/2009
Publisher: Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage
|Publication date:||1st October 2009|
|Publisher:||Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography,|