The Red Address Book

Written by Sofia Lundberg
Review by Valerie Adolph

Doris, now 96 years old and living alone in her Stockholm apartment, treasures the red address book given to her by her father in 1928. In it she has written the names of all the people who have been important to her throughout her life. She has crossed many of the names out as she has aged, writing ‘DEAD’ beside them.

Her one joy in life now is her Skype calls with her grandniece, Jenny, who lives in California, and she begins to write her life story, hoping it might help Jenny understand her family and its history. Doris herself felt very vividly the effects of the worldwide Depression and the Second World War. She experienced life as a maid, a pampered model in Paris, a penniless victim of a shipwreck and, most importantly as the lover of Allan, an American man she meets in Paris. Tragically the two could only spend a short time together. Both have tried to find each other over the years to no avail.

Now Doris is dying, and Jenny asks her husband’s understanding for her to leave her family in America to spend precious last days with Doris and to share her story.

Lundberg says she wanted in this book to show how much the elderly have to say and how much life wisdom they have. She succeeds in this, showing in fine detail the influences of 20th-century world events on one woman thrown into circumstances beyond her control. Doris fights for survival for herself, her sister and now for Jenny and her family.

Translated from Swedish, The Red Address Book layers emotion and excitement into the life of someone who is slowly fading away. This, together with vividly drawn characters, amplifies the message of this fascinating and engrossing book.