I adore watching true stories unfold. They are somehow more satisfying, and the adaption of Helene Hanff’s best-selling autobiographical novel was no exception – so charismaticaly brought to life at the Oxford Playhouse.

Spanning 20 years of their lives from the post-war 1940s to the 60s, the collection of transatlantic letters between her, Frank Doel and the staff at Marks & Co book shop is absorbingly acted and narrated, providing an elegant simplicity to the play’s flow.

The sumptuously detailed set and the inviting dusty bookshelves of the London store, is a book lover’s dream.

The stage is split roughly in two – the slightly shabby interior of Helene’s New York apartment blurring into the second-hand bookshop.

Looking remarkably young for her 75 years, Hollywood and Broadway legend Stefanie Powers, famed for her role in TV show Hart to Hart, stars as complete bookworm Helene, who is based in her New York apartment, throughout.

The writer, is searching for antique books which she can’t source in New York., so turns to Frank and Marks & Co instead. Their ensuing correspondence frames the plot, all in letters.

Powers has such stage presence, whether portraying Helene’s sharp wit and occasionally-abrasive nature, to her softer, more benevolent side, sending food parcels to her friends in the UK while Britain suffers under rationing.

As she enthusiastically puffs on cigarettes, Powers’ straight-talking monologues in that distinctive American drawl repeatedly titillates the audience.

Clive Francis as Frank Doel is both sprightly and perfectly understated. As the heart of Marks & Co. there is an endearing warmth to his performance. Other stand out turns came from Samantha Sutherland, playing the spirited Cecily Farr.

The live music only elevates an already utterly charming tale.

Love of literature, simple pleasures and the romanticism of an era gone by is captured soulfully. Everything, from the crackle of the radio to ticking clocks, and the occasional street noises as doors are opened, feels authentic and precisely thought out. This nostalgic show doesn’t require fast paced drama to keep us enthralled. 4.5/5

* See it at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday. Go to oxfordplayhouse.com