*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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?
The Red Address Book is a sweetly melancholic tale of love (of different kinds, not just romantic), death and aging.
The story tells Doris’ history as she lived in Sweden, France, England and America, with the people she met and loved, and the ways she managed to survive and make money against the odds.
Juxtaposed with the young, vigorous Doris we see present-day Doris: old, vulnerable and terribly lonely. Sofia Lundberg really brings this home in a poignant and rawly honest way: we will all get old and we will all die. Every old man/woman who needs help bathing, or dressing, or making food was once young and vibrant; world at their feet and their path yet to tread. Never have I felt my mortality more than when reading this book.
In some ways you could say that not a lot happens in this book. An elderly woman reminisces about her life and loves as she gradually weakens. Her life, whilst interesting, is a fairly ordinary one that many may have experienced in the abstract. It is the human emotion that the author exposes here that make the book stand out. That very ordinariness actually captures the general human experiences: laughter, friendship, love, loss, struggle and kindness, in a way that is recognisable and relatable to the reader.
So it is a book about not very much, but also about everything; a whole life within the pages of Doris’ address book and here for us to witness too.
Recommended for fans of emotional drama and intimate family histories.
Pleased, she sits back down at the kitchen table and smooths the tablecloth with her hands. Arranges everything carefully. The pillbox, the lozenges, the plastic case, the magnifying glass, and the phone are all back in their rightful place. When she reaches for her address book, her hand pauses, and she allows it to rest there. She hasn’t opened it in a long time, but now she lifts the cover and is met by a list of names on the first page. Most have been crossed out. In the margin, she has written it several times. One word. Dead.
– Sofia Lundberg, The Red Address Book
The Red Address Book is available on Amazon right now, and from all good booksellers!