The Red Address Book is a beautiful and poignant story about 96 year old Doris who is nearing the end of her life. Flicking through the red leather-bound address book her father gave her when she was young, she realises that although many of the people in the book have now passed away, her life is inextricably bound up with theirs. Before her memories disappear, she turn to her laptop and begins chronicling the story of her life to pass on to her great-niece Jenny.
I was completely caught up in the story of Doris’s life. She had led such a fascinating life and was a character it was easy to care about. She had lived the most amazing life from modelling in Paris, to living hidden in an attic with her younger sister in Montauk, to being fished out the sea by an English fisherman, to being a housekeeper for an artist in Stockholm. Yet in her senior years, it seems all anyone sees is an old, infirm woman. I think it something we can all be guilty of, not seeing beyond age to acknowledge that older people have had all kinds of life experiences. As Doris said, “A beautiful person is listened to, admired. This became all too clear to me later in life, when my skin suddenly lost its elasticity and my hair started to turn white. When people stopped looking at me as I walked through a room. That day will arrive. For everyone.” Although frail and failing, she was still determined and intelligent and knew exactly what she wanted. I admired her absolute determination to stay in her own home as long as she could despite medical staff and social workers advising her it would be impossible at her grand old age.
I was glad that she had people who cared about her even though her niece lived so far away in America. The relationship with Jenny was so touchingly portrayed and their importance to each was very clear. Love was an important theme throughout the book with Doris looking to love and be loved. There was one man, Allan, who she met in Paris and who was the love of her life. Though they were parted, she never forgot him and never stopped wondering what happened to him.
When I wrote my Christmas cards in December, I got out my address book and as always, sadly, there were names which had to be scored out. As I looked through, I brought to mind fond memories of those no longer with us. Other entries have had names added as families grow and addresses changed as people move on. I’ve never really thought about how my address book tells the story of people I have known and do know. I have often thought about getting a new one as it’s a bit tatty but, after reading this, I will hang on to it.
The Red Address Book is a life-affirming story, beautifully written and ultimately uplifting.
“Love. It’s just one word but it holds so much. In the end all that matters is love. Did you love enough?”
My thanks to Jaime Frost at publishers The Borough Press (an imprint of Harper Collins) for my free review copy of the book. The Red Address Book is available now in hardback or as an ebook. You should be able to buy or order it from your usual book retailer or you can order a Kindle copy online here: The Red Address Book
From the back of the book
A heartwarming debut about 96-year-old Doris, who writes down the memories of her eventful life as she pages through her decades-old address book. But the most profound moment of her life is still to come …
Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny—her American grandniece, and her only relative—give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.
When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colourful past—working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War—can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, to unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?
About the author
Sofia Lundberg is a journalist and former magazine editor. Her debut novel, The Red Address Book, will be published in 28 territories worldwide. She lives in Stockholm with her son.