I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
The Red Address Book follows 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, modeling 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, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love Doris’ life?
The Red Address Book is a quiet book, one that doesn’t rush but rather takes its time and slowly, delicately infiltrates your heart.
Doris’ red address book, evidence of a long and full life but increasingly filled with crossed-out names marked “dead”, prompts her to write down the story of her life by concentrating of some of her most meaningful relationships. I really loved the juxtaposition between younger, energetic Doris and older Doris, struggling to come to terms with the gradual loss of her physical abilities and her independence. Doris really lived – sometimes making tough choices and sometimes having to deal with the result of other people’s choices or external circumstances – but she learned to accept it all, the good and the bad, and make the most of it.
It was refreshing to read about an elderly protagonist who isn’t the usual cantankerous old woman. Yes, Doris did have her moments of intolerance, but they were limited and justified by her frustration at finding herself deprived of her independence. The rest of the time, Doris was caring, funny and resourceful, even teaching herself how to use Skype in order to keep in touch with her family in the US. I also liked getting to know Jenny, Doris’ grandniece and only remaining family, and really felt her pain at having to confront a loved one’s mortality. I wasn’t too keen on Allan at first and definitely felt like he could have explored more as a character and in his relationship with Doris.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in this book, but I ended up falling in love with Doris and having ALL the feels! I definitely choked up towards the end, and when I turned that last page it felt like saying goodbye to an old friend.
Overall, this is a bittersweet and charming read that will likely appeal to fans of family histories and quiet historical dramas.