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Apple of My Eye

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A celebration of her life-long love for New York, Hanff embarked on this project as an assignment, and realized she had not been to many of the main tourist attractions- the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the World Trade Center. As make-believe tourists, off she and Patsy travel to describe the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant's Tomb, Fraunces Tavern, some of New York's very special small museums, Orchard Street, a tour of Harlem, and much more. Hanff weaves in historical events and tidbits on some of New York's most notorious personalities.

144 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1977

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About the author

Helene Hanff

21 books530 followers
Helene Hanff (April 15, 1916–April 9, 1997) was an American writer. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she is best known as the author of the book 84 Charing Cross Road, which became the basis for a play, teleplay, and film of the same name.

Her career, which saw her move from writing unproduced plays to helping create some of the earliest television dramas to becoming a kind of professional New Yorker, goes far beyond the charm of that one book. She called her 1961 memoir Underfoot in Show Business, and it chronicled the struggle of an ambitious young playwright to make it in the world of New York theatre in the 1940s and 1950s. She worked in publicists' offices and spent summers on the "straw hat" circuit along the East Coast of the United States, writing plays that were admired by some of Broadway's leading producers but which somehow never saw the light of day.

She wrote and edited scripts for a variety of early television dramas produced out of New York, all the while continuing to try and move from being what she called "one of the 999 out of 1,000 who don't become Noel Coward." When the bulk of television production moved to California, her work slowly dried up, and she turned to writing for magazines and, eventually, to the books that made her reputation.

First published in 1970, the epistolary work 84 Charing Cross Road chronicles her 20 years of correspondence with Frank Doel, the chief buyer for Marks & Co., a London bookshop, on which she depended for the obscure classics and British literature titles around which her passion for self-education revolved. She became intimately involved in the lives of the shop's staff, sending them food parcels during England's post-war shortages and sharing with them details of her life in Manhattan.

Due to financial difficulties and an aversion to travel, she put off visiting her English friends until too late; Doel died in December 1968 from peritonitis from a burst appendix, and the bookshop eventually closed. Hanff did finally visit Charing Cross Road and the empty but still standing shop in the summer of 1971, a trip recorded in her 1973 book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

In the 1987 film of 84 Charing Cross Road, Hanff was played by Anne Bancroft, while Anthony Hopkins took the part of Frank Doel. Anne Jackson had earlier played Hanff in a 1975 adaptation of the book for British television. Ellen Burstyn recreated the role on Broadway in 1982 at the Nederlander Theater in New York City.

She later put her obsession with British scholar Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch to use in a book called Q's Legacy. Other books include Apple of My Eye, an idiosyncratic guide to New York City, and A Letter from New York (1992), which reprinted talks she gave on the BBC's Woman's Hour between 1978 and 1985.

Hanff was never shy about her fondness for cigarettes and martinis, but nevertheless lived to be 80, dying of diabetes in 1997 in New York City. The apartment building where she lived at 305 E. 72nd Street has been named "Charing Cross House" in her honor. A bronze plaque next to the front door commemorates her residence and authorship of the book.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 112 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
887 reviews4 followers
September 6, 2020
Over the last few years I’ve kept a correspondence with my library’s nonfiction purchaser, enabling me to get a head start on reading new books that had been on my radar. I call this my 84, Charing Cross Road moment in homage to New Yorker Helene Hanff’s epistolary memoir with a book store employee in London. I found the book charming and could relate to Hanff as one who needed an outlet to discuss books and maintain an overseas pen pal relationship in the days long before the internet and email. 84, Charing Cross Road and its follow up The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street were among my favorite books the year I read them, so it was much to my delight when I found out that the author Hanff was a long time writer who had published a myriad of quirky memoirs about her life as a Manhattanite. Fondly remembering her two books, I knew that I would have to systematically read through the rest of her writing.

In time for America’s bicentennial, the New Yorker magazine had asked Hanff to write a series of articles about Manhattan’s history and tourist attractions, encouraging Americans to visit the city that never sleeps. New York of 1976 was known for the Burning Bronx and summer of Sam as well as racial unrest in areas like Bushwick, prompting Hanff to write about Manhattan, avoiding other boroughs, in an attempt to promote the city as a clean, wholesome, family friendly place to visit. What resulted was Hanff and her friend Patsy Gibbs playing Manhattan tourist for two glorious months in the spring of 1976 as she garnered notes for what would become Apple of my Eye, a travelogue that is a words and photograph journey through the sounds and sites of Manhattan Island.

Both Helene Hanff and Patsy Gibbs are afraid of heights. They kept reminding readers of this point in this bit of humor, a point they had to revisit on almost every stop on their tourist journey. In 1976, the Twin Towers were open for observation and Roosevelt Island had just become a newly planned community for families. Hanff and Gibbs swallowed their fear and rode the elevator to the 110th floor and the Roosevelt Island cable car. They rode the Ellis Island ferry and climbed to Lady Liberty’s torch. On a different trip they climbed a parapet at Columbia University and visited the Cloisters and had no idea how they got that high without fainting. The bottom line is that if you stay on the ground, you will miss half of what the city has to offer.

In the innocence of the 1970s, both ladies smoked and drank coffee at every shop and deli they could find. This is the New York with a deli on every corner that offered corned beef on rye with a dill pickle and steaming coffee being the preferred drink of choice. Yet, New York is the city of immigrants and the women made a point to eat in Chinatown and at an authentic deli on Orchard Street of the lower east side. They traveled to Harlem and Little Italy and pointed out each ethnic group’s pushcart food of choice. Not all journeys took the ladies to greater heights. They explored Central Park for all it had to offer and the picture of paddle boats in the swan lake made me want to drop everything that I am doing and travel to Manhattan. Other trips included the U.N., Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Broadway. The women exuded the snobbiness I associate with New Yorkers but it was not over the top; these women showed that they were genuinely proud of their city and were ambassadors in encouraging people from around the globe to visit the Big Apple.

Hanff had done her homework and included a history lesson with each stop on her itinerary including how the Bronx got its name and how New Amsterdam became New York, New York. My mother, a native New Yorker, had been planning a trip home to do research on a book she is writing before the craziness of 2020 hit. I was going to join her and had thought up a 21st itinerary that included Ellis Island, the Jackie Robinson Museum, Central Park, and the new Yankee Stadium. Hanff’s book has reminded me of this planned trip and now I have even more stops to put on my itinerary. Helene Hanff is one a kind. Her writing is humorous and quirky. I can not think of a better choice during the 1970s to promote traveling to Manhattan. I will continue to savor her unique brand of writing moving forward.

4 🍎 🗽 🏙 🍎 stars
Profile Image for Susann.
716 reviews41 followers
October 16, 2017
So much fun reading about Manhattan of 40 years ago. Hanff's breezy style always goes down easy. It's one thing to say I wish I had known a certain author, but with Hanff I feel certain that I have known her. That we've been to a 92nd Street Y event together. (We haven't.)

The first couple of World Trade Center mentions were a punch to the gut, but then I grew grateful that this was one of the sights on her list.

Loved her descriptions of the newly designed Roosevelt Island and the newly reopened Ellis Island. And I took just as much glee in her crotchetiness about the Met Museum. I disagreed with her, but that was the fun of it.

I liked learning that not everyone cried when the old Penn Station was torn down and I giggled over Hanff's "why bother" eyeroll about restoring Grand Central.

This edition contains a section of updates written in the late '80s (if Yuppies seem so quaint now, when will the notion of hipsters disappear?), and it's eerie to read the chapter about the glitz of Trump Tower. Talk about gut punch.

As much as I enjoyed reading about the sights, I savored the little time capsule details the most. The lunch cafeterias. The concern over whether smoking was permitted on tour buses. And all those descriptions of regular streets in various neighborhoods.

If you're like me and wanted to know exactly where Patsy lived and what her husband did: It was the Beresford and he was an attorney.
Profile Image for Trelawn.
340 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2015
This time I toured New York of the '70s with Helene. It didn't quite get me in the same way as The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street but that because I have been to London and could visualise the places she was talking about. The New York trip was still great with lots of interesting historical tidbits and asides by Helene. An interesting, if a little dated, guide book.
Profile Image for Bill.
893 reviews160 followers
May 16, 2018
Back in the late 1970s Helene Hanff was asked to contribute some text to a book of photographs on New York City. An easy task she thought, until she realised she knew very little about the city she lived in.
Accompanied by her friend Pasty she trekked across New York. They visit iconic landmarks, occasionally get lost & even discover why 6th Avenue is confusingly called Avenue of the Americas. Hanff's style is light & chatty & this is a pretty short & sweet read.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,656 reviews618 followers
April 14, 2017
Rainy bank holiday afternoons are ideal reading time and I greatly enjoyed taking a tour of New York with Helene Hanff. I am a committed armchair tourist: one who has no real urge to actually visit distant places but loves to read about them. Hanff is a wonderfully engaging writer, so this is an extremely readable account of New York’s tourist spots in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is a little weird to read a detailed account of visiting the World Trade Centre, though. Hanff expertly combines historical anecdote and bickering with her friend & tour companion Patsy. I learned quite a bit about New York at a time when it was apparently near-bankrupt, including the clearest explanation I’ve yet found for its baffling street naming scheme. (At least in the UK streets are named randomly, so you don’t expect them to make sense.) Hanff’s love and enthusiasm for her city’s many idiosyncrasies comes through clearly. Yet she also makes clear that the prime museums, art galleries, etc were built by plutocrats using blood money. The visit to Ellis Island is another sombre moment. Nonetheless, the overall tone of the book is cheerful and I found it a delightful trip across the Atlantic and back a few decades. I was also reminded that somehow I lived in Cambridge for a decade, on and off, without ever visiting King’s College Chapel. It’s easy to take tourist attractions for granted when you walk past them most days. This book makes a strong argument for exploring the history on your doorstep.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,898 followers
August 17, 2009
This is the most lighthearted, informal guide book you'll ever read. Back in 1976, Hanff was commissioned to write the text for what was to be a book of photographs and tourist information for Manhattan. I have no idea what happened to the pictorial part of the equation. This book has no photos. But the text is delightful. Over a period of two months, the author and her friend Patsy went out once or twice a week to places of interest to both tourists and locals. Hanff would then write up a few pages about each "tour," including local secrets, little-known history, and dialogue between her and Patsy as their day progressed.

If you are very familiar with NYC, you will love this book for all the things that are dear to your heart. If, like me, you've never been to NYC and don't care to go, you will love this book for all the insider information about neighborhoods and attractions you've always heard about but never really understood.

Hanff is irreverent, opinionated, and saucy, and her great love for Manhattan shines through on every page.

Profile Image for Andy.
681 reviews91 followers
February 6, 2022
I found this ok. I suspect it may be a lot of fun for New Yorkers, good for those who visits, but it was pretty boring for someone who had never visited, and lacked the charm of 84 CCR
Profile Image for twentyventi.
115 reviews68 followers
September 2, 2022
Helene Hanff could have written a book about her weekly trip to the grocery store over the course of 30 years, and I would read it and I would love it.
Profile Image for Jana.
772 reviews88 followers
December 27, 2013
Thank you Chris for this gem of a book!

Oh to tour New York City in the 1970s with the wonderful, witty Helene Hanff and her friend Patsy. The next best thing is to read this book.
You will visit Ellis Island & Staten Island. You'll see Roosevelt Island via the brand new cable car. View the city from the top of the World Trade Center (funny because they are scared of heights, but oh so sad because of what will happen in 25 years). Tour Harlem on the penny bus. Explore the Cathedral of St John the Divine. She has no respect for the Metropolitan Museum of Art because at the time of writing they were tearing up her beloved Central Park for a huge addition. Give her the Fricke or JP Morgan collections any time. She sits in a restaurant with her BACK to the museum. You have to love her.

Goal: I want to send a copy of this book to my native New Yorker buddy Cassie so we can re-enact their travels someday.

Profile Image for Jeannette.
127 reviews
May 12, 2019
I chose this book because I am smitten with Helen Hanff and I am always interested in finding out more about NYC as I visit my daughter there at least once a year. Sadly this book was quite dated, albeit retaining some charm because it is still Helen Hanff. However the device of visiting tourist spots with a chatty friend did not work well. There was a bit too much fluffy chat between the bff's and too little information about the places visited.
Profile Image for Laura.
331 reviews21 followers
August 11, 2018
She seemed a bit cranky as she wrote this, but it was better than I expected it to be. Fun to read about Roosevelt Island and its tram when it first opened.
Profile Image for Ashley Lambert-Maberly.
1,181 reviews7 followers
September 20, 2022
Helene Hanff has such a wonderful tone. To paraphrase a commonly heard utterance, I'd read her even if she was writing the phone book ... she'd find a way to make it interesting! "Aamondsen, Aaron ... you know, I knew an Aamondsen when I was in a book club—mostly dreadful—but I suppose it couldn't be the same family. Although, how many Aamondsens can there be? And no, the next name is also Aaamonsen, Beatrice. There are a few. Sigh." Easy to imagine!

For this book, she was (apparently) commissioned to write some prose to attach to photographs which had already been taken of popular New York Sights. I say "apparently" because she so resembles Beverley Nichols in style sometimes, and he can't be trusted—made up entire friends and stories and I fell for it—so who knows if there's such a publisher for her, or even such a friend as Mrs. Gibbs? But it hardly matters. She's so conversational and pleasant to be around, it's like having your dear friend who's good at telling stories (not the boring friend who can't) deliver delightful anecdote upon delightful anecdote.

At the end I even misted up a little because (a) she's said something a bit moving, and (b) it was over and I would miss her. But I have my standards, and it's not quite a 5-star book (I am the Mean Judge here on Goodreads) if I compare it to other non-fiction works like Not Since Carrie or Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior which I would (and have) read over and over again with renewed delight.

But for God's sake, it's still wonderful—you should read it once—I urge you.

Note: I have written a novel (not yet published), so now I will suffer pangs of guilt every time I offer less than five stars. In my subjective opinion, the stars suggest:

(5* = one of my all-time favourites, 4* = really enjoyed it, 3* = readable but not thrilling, 2* = actually disappointing, and 1* = hated it. As a statistician I know most books are 3s, but I am biased in my selection and end up mostly with 4s, thank goodness.)
Profile Image for Alana.
1,498 reviews47 followers
June 24, 2018
How fun to get a view of NYC from one who's lived there most of her life....but temporarily living as a tourist, just to see what it's like (and to sell a book, of course). I love her realization in the beginning that she's lived here her entire adult life, and yet never seen some of the world-renowned locations that tourists come to New York for... I can relate, having so often not checked out the sights and sounds nearby because I live here, and "I'll get around to it someday."

Since this was first published in the late 70s and then updated in the late 80s, I'm sure it's changed even more since Hanff's updates (indeed, her description of the view from the observation level of the WTC is eerie from this side of 9/11) but the spirit of the city and its inhabitants has doubtless changed very little. I love the descriptions of communities within the city and the miles of museums and all the vendors and the lawns of Central Park and the lights at night....all that we imagine New York to be. It's never been on my "must-see" list of places that I want to travel, but I may have to revise that. It sounds like a very cultured, interesting place, and might even have a few attractions that I could afford to check out. "Apple of the Eye" indeed.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
1,054 reviews65 followers
July 15, 2018
A really enjoyable read about the author becoming acquainted with her hometown through the lens of a tourist. I snagged this book from a collection that came from a late friend because of how much I loved 84 Charing Cross Road. This book had the same voice and was full if tidbits of trivia and humor. I learned about The Cloisters (I always wondered what they were). I found out the source of the euphemism "using the facilities." I learned about the sad fate if immigrants turned away at Ellis Island. And I learned about the World Trade Center and Trump Tower.

It was nice to see New York City through Hanff's eyes. It made me want to see more of it in person.
Profile Image for Stacy.
1,580 reviews
February 11, 2019
I loved reading this short love letter to New York City/guidebook so much. Around 1976, Helene and her friend Patsy decided to play tourist for a few weeks so that Helene can better write descriptions about various tourist destinations for one of her writing jobs. Following them on their journey was so much fun. Hanff's wry humor struck the right chord with me and I delighted in having been to many of the attractions they described. It was bittersweet to read about the newly build World Trade Center towers. A little weird to also have the new Trump Towers mentioned as well as the up and coming Barnes & Noble company taking over. There were a few places mentioned that I was unaware of and have now added to my list of things to do during one of our visits.
Profile Image for Dylan Kakoulli.
450 reviews42 followers
April 27, 2021
You’d think after reading all these books I’d be a bit more eloquent or concise with my reviews, but honestly there are no words to express how much love and adoration I have for Helene and her books!

“Apple Of My Eye” is yet another fun, breezy, conversational style read, where we join Helene and her pal Patsy as they explore their beloved NYC.

I wish I read this when I visited -though incredibly dated, Helene includes wonderful historical tidbits, humorous anecdotes and of course brings some of that good ol’ no-nonsense wit!

A delightful book, by a quintessential New Yorker and one to add to your “must read” list!🍎

3 stars

8 reviews
June 22, 2022
Delightful tour of 70s New York in the company of two old friends, slightly crotchety at times, but always entertaining. I look forward to seeing how some of the sights have changed next time I visit.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Miss Eliza).
2,224 reviews137 followers
September 6, 2011
Helene Hanff is such a quintessential New Yorker that when the BBC wanted someone to present a little five minute piece on New York once a month on the Woman's Hour they looked to Helene. In the minds of the British, Helene IS New York. Plus, they have taken her to heart ever since 84, Charing Cross Road. So logically, when a publishing house in New York was looking for someone to write captions to accompany pictures taken of New York they too looked to Helene to provide her sharp wit to their venture. Whatever happened of the original venture is not mentioned in the book. There may or may not have been a book that resulted from her three months of writing. But instead we get the play by play diary of Helene and her best friend Patsy, a born New Yorker, who both quickly realize that, while living almost their whole lives in New York, they aren't in touch with the New York tourists who'd be buying this book would be. So the two of them set out to "write that down."

From the Statue of Liberty to the newly opened Ellis Island. From the Cloisters to the newly constructed World Trade Center, they troll through the island of Manhattan to see what the tourists would go to see, even if they are both terrified of heights and 107 stories is really up there. Intermingled with their experiences are little bits of history that Helene has picked up over the years, such as the fact that Wall Street really did have a wall, and that the cathedral of St. John the Divine is a combination of American know-how and European elegance, and every neighborhood thinks their deli is the best. It's also an interesting glimpse into Helene's opinions, her views on corrupt early industrialists who left gorgeous houses from the Morgan Library to The Frick. Also, Helene really dislikes anything happening to central park and her rage against The Met's expansions is a big theme.

This book is so interesting in that, for someone who has spent time in New York, you can see how much remains, but, especially with September 11th now 10 years in our past, something that is such a big feature of this book and of New York is now gone. I can't help but wonder what Helene would make of the changes that have happened to New York in the 15 years since her death. I'm sure her pride in New York would never waiver and she would have been in the forefront of commentators. I can't really see this book appealing to tourists though. It's such an intimate portrait. She goes to the great sites and attractions, but her writing style is of one who lives there and knows the terrain. Constantly referencing streets or subway stops, while repetitive at times, won't help a tourist, it was more confusing than anything, with the map at the back a kind of joke. It is the perfect gift for someone who loves the city and wants a kindred spirit to go on a journey with.
Profile Image for Joan.
506 reviews2 followers
November 10, 2017
The very witty and somewhat acerbic writer Helene Hanff followed up on her success with 84, Charing Charing Cross Road, her famous memoir (made into a charming film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins) of her two-decade trans-Atlantic communications with the London bookshop of the same name, with this highly personal and eclectic guide to Manhatttan, circa 1977.

The New York of that time was far from the glittering, polished-up Big Apple that we think of today. New York as a city was broke, dirty and dangerous... and I would know as I moved there shortly after Hanff's book was published and witnessed its transformation, which has been good (it's cleaner and safer and there is the added diversity of new immigrants) and bad (the Disneyland transformation of Times Square and 42nd St., the influx of suburban-style big-box stores, and most significantly, the loss of the World Trade Center and 3,000 or more people who perished there in the 2001 attacks).

In fact, the WTC was brand-new, actually somewhat incomplete, and Ellis Island had not yet been restored, which comes clear in Hanff's writings. The anecdotes and experiences she shares with her friend Patsy as they traverse the island for research are a mix of the very dated (everyone smokes, everywhere, and the parks and the West Side are considered particularly dangerous) and the eternally appealing (visits to Grant's Tomb, Riverside Church, the Cloisters, Trinity Church, Chinatown and much more).

I read the book through two lenses: the present and the past. I found it very touching and nostalgic, but somewhat exasperating since Helene and her friend were not as adventurous as me during those years, though that could be excused, as Helene was considerably older than I was at the time and her perspective was so different.

If you enjoy NY stories and want a lens into the city of 40 years ago, like writing with humor and feistiness, you will enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Jan C.
1,008 reviews109 followers
July 11, 2009
I really liked this walking tour of New York City. I'm not from New York. I remember we all went there in the early '60s. My father had a business trip and my brother and I were out of school. My mother really wanted to go see the Cloisters. My brother not so much. And I just got dragged along. It should be noted that no one bothered to check on whether they were open that day. They weren't. My brother left my mother and me standing by the side of the road and I guess went back to the hotel on his own. And my mother and I made our way back to the hotel as well. But it was one of the worst afternoons of my young life. I was 10-12 and my brother was in his mid-teens.

The point is that this book tells me that we would not have enjoyed the Cloisters even if it had been open. My mother would have. I believe she went some years later and also confirmed that we (my brother and I) would not have had an enjoyable time ... and thus her time would have been much less enjoyable than when she went alone.

But I really did like this tour of NYC - as long as I could take it from my armchair.
Profile Image for Maija.
301 reviews9 followers
September 19, 2014
Just happened to see this book featured on a shelf at the library in the week before going to NYC for a trip & it was the perfect book for reading on the plane. Helene was very witty and funny in describing her adventures of visiting all the best tourist sites in NYC with her friend Patsy as part of her research for a travel guide. Surprisingly, this book is as old as I am, but most of the sites she visited are still top tourist destinations. She also mixes in bits of history and politics of the times that added a bit to some of the sites I visited (the expansion of the Met further into Central Park for example). After reading her bio, I'd like to check out her other books now too.
Profile Image for Allan.
478 reviews67 followers
September 18, 2015
Being a fan of all things NYC, and particularly all things NYC in the 1970s, I thought that this 'travelogue' by a city native written in spring 1977 would give a real insight to the city as it was in the midst of financial crisis and artistic expression. No such luck.

A quick, light and basically shallow read about the author's journey around a tiny part of her city with a friend, that spent more time documenting their conversations than informing the reader of much interesting about the city.

Perhaps for some people-just not for me.
October 20, 2019
Such fun! Wish I could be best friends with Helene Hanff and go all over Manhattan with her.
Not a typical tourist book (of course), but will make you want to go to New York.
Includes a visit to the World Trade Center which is good, but difficult to read. Also a description of Trump Tower in the appendices, but she thinks it gaudy so it's kinda fun.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,468 reviews37 followers
July 21, 2022
Absolutely wonderful! I cannot stress enough how enjoyable this book was for me. Helene Hanff has such a likable and relatable voice. I loved 84 Charing Cross Road and when I heard about this 1977 memoir I tracked it down.

Since moving to NYC a few years ago, I've had the goal to do all the touristy things I'd never actually done before so learning that this book is all about Helene doing exactly that - touristy things she'd never gotten around to doing - I was sold. Of course, she is writing about the summer of 1976 and not 2022. I enjoyed reading what has changed in the last 45 years and what has not. The saddest chapter is, of course, about her visit to the World Trade Center.

Helene invites her friend Patsy to do all the things and a big joy when reading the book is Helene's depiction of their friendship. (Very sad to read in the afterward that Patsy died of breast cancer 3 years after the book was published). I got a real Lucy & Ethel vibe from them. I wanted to go hang out and go on adventures with the two of them. They were a hoot.

I was fascinated reading about the NYC of my childhood. Boy, NYC used to be different! Now it's so cleaned up and gentrified and expensive. When I read Patsy lived in an apartment on Central Park West ($$$$$) I did some google sleuthing and figured out (based on what celebrities they said lived in her building) that she lived in The Beresford. WOW. A quick search on Streeteasy shows me that an apartment, similar to the one described as Patsy's, is currently under contract for 19.5 million. Helene's descriptions of neighborhoods that are now insanely expensive (Greenwich Village, Soho, Upper West Side, Battery City) made me long for a time machine so I could go back to the 1970's and snap up some cheap real estate.

Another thing that stood out to me was how Helene and Patsy were constantly getting lost and turned around and couldn't find anywhere good to eat. With a smart phone in your pocket, getting lost and deciding on a restaurant are no longer issues. My phone tells me everything I need to know. It makes exploring the city far less stressful. I don't miss the days of trying to figure out the best route to get somewhere.

Reading this motivated me to start up my explorations again, which had waned with the arrival of covid 2 years ago. I'm visiting Ellis Island next week and Harlem the following week! I wrote out a list of places I want to visit this fall. I love living in a city where there are som many fun things to do! You never run out of places to go, things to experience.
Profile Image for Emma Creasey.
35 reviews
March 3, 2023
Asked to write copy to accompany some photographs of New York's main tourist attractions (by the way, we never see the photographs and we never know if this publication actually occurred) Helene Hanff realises that, as someone who actually lives in New York, she has never visited any of the main attractions herself. Accompanied by her friend Patsy, a stickler for detail who continually orders her to 'write that down', she begins on a trademark unique, eccentric and irreverent tour guide. The ladies are somewhat hampered by their joint fear of heights and (it appears) need to find a coffee every half mile (it's New York so they always find one), but in the unlikely event of finding myself there, I'd appreciate having Helene with me. Though not so much for the descriptions of the places themselves. She has an unerring eye for ordinary people doing interesting things - in the markets, in the parks. It's out of date now, of course, and the most poignantly out of date sections are the parts where she visits the World Trade Centre, heading up to the observatory on the 107th floor. I learned some things about New York, and even more about New Yorkers.
A nice additional detail: I bought this second hand, and there is a message written inside the front cover to the recipient. Helene would definitely approve.
Profile Image for Tara .
429 reviews46 followers
September 15, 2019
While not as charming as other works of Helene Hanff that I have devoured (84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street), as a native New Yorker, this book had a certain appeal to me. I think many of us suffer from a repulsion to so many of the wonderful sights and sounds of the city because they are deemed to be for tourists only, and therefore not cool enough to bother with. It was on a random whim that I went to visit Ellis Island and the Stature of Liberty one summer in high school with my best friend. That trip still burns in the back of my mind, as my family came to America only a few generations before through those very doors. I am also filled with sadness and regret for never getting to witness the majesty and awe-inspiring views from the World Trade Center, before they were evilly destroyed forever. Unfortunately some of the cool tips and tricks no longer apply in today's New York (we haven't used subway tokens in ages for example), but are still worth reading about from the perspective of the history of this great city, and all it has to offer, to both friends and strangers alike.
Profile Image for Lynn B.
653 reviews16 followers
February 19, 2021
I picked up a copy of this book from 1982 second hand and I am so glad I did.

Loving Helene Hanff's voice in 84 Charing Cross Road I have been tracking down her other works and this one is a star if you are a fan of New York City.

Helene and her friend visit like tourists would, their home city of New York. Helene is researching the writing of a book for tourists, what they would see and where they could go. It's really like a history lesson as it's from 1982, and of course the Twin Towers are still standing. She takes us inside them and it was brilliant, as I never got to see them in real life. She also goes on the swiss tram that goes over to Roosevelt Island, which then, had only opened the week before! I have been on this and not a lot of people know about it, especially not NYC residents.

I ended up looking on Google maps at streets and sights she visits, to see if they still exist and in what form now. Obviously so much has changed and it felt a little like time travel to see it from Helene's viewpoint and see what it's become today. I learned a lot of new facts and found places I want to see when I can next visit New York City.
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