Like 84, Charing Cross Road
, Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern's charming bibliocentric memoir is as much about relationships as it is about books. Charing Cross
chronicled the decades-long epistolary friendship between American book lover Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, the equally devoted British bookseller in the London shop from whom she bought many of her treasures. Rostenberg and Stern's book once again proves how a passion for great literature can make for fast friends. And in their case, these two octogenarians occupy the same geographical space, sharing both their professional and private lives.
In their introduction, Rostenberg and Stern write: "Several readers inferred ... that our relationship was a Lesbian one. This was a misconception. The 'deep, deep love' that existed and exists between us ... has no bearing upon sex." With that out of the way early on, the two recount the stories of their lives in alternating sections. And oh, what lives they've had! From identifying some of Louisa May Alcott's previously anonymous early writings to traveling the world in search of rare volumes and pamphlets, they have done and seen it all. Successful antiquarian book dealers Rostenberg and Stern undoubtedly are, but as this memoir makes clear, their greatest accomplishment just might be that rarer commodity of friendship that lasts a lifetime. --Alix Wilber
This small volume is so rich in anecdote, so warm with a loving friendship of many decades, so precise in its evocative descriptions of the rare-book trade from the 1930s to the present, that it is hard to imagine any reader who would not find pleasure in it. Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, who are the firm of Leona Rostenberg Rare Books, are now in their 80s, but their elegant writing and limpid descriptions of growing up in Manhattan and the Bronx, studying at Barnard, NYU, and Columbia, and touring Europe as young women show no signs of age. It is to Stern's scholarship that we owe the current rage for the non^-Little Women
writings of Louisa May Alcott; it is to Rostenberg that we owe the notion that early printer-publishers influenced scholarship. Her adviser at Columbia had rejected her dissertation upon that topic: she was only granted her degree 30 years later. Their individual voices make both harmony and counterpoint in this joint autobiography; we are wiser and more blessed for the words and journeys they have shared. GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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