I was asked earlier this year by Danny Goldstein of Harper Collins to read and review The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel. I read it back in May and can't believe it's taken me this long to review it, mainly because I loved it that much. The minute I finished it I wanted to open it back up and re-read it. You can browse the book over at Harper Collins website.
Lily Koppel is a writer for The New York Times who lives on the Upper West Side. One day as she's leaving her apartment, she sees a ton of old steamer trunks sitting on the curb for removal. (Side note: I love love looking at all the gems you can find on trash day in the city.) The apartment building had a ton of old trunks sitting in storage for decades and was finally getting rid of them. The one that struck Lily's fancy, though, was open and had some beautiful vintage clothes and an old red leather diary. She saved the trunk along with the diary. The following book is the story behind the woman who wrote in the diary from 1929 to 1934.
Here's a photo of Lily with some of the old trunks:
The diary isn't just any old diary. It's a diary that is meant to span five years. Each day of the month has a page. Each year has a couple of lines on that page. (Side note: I love this idea for a diary. That way you aren't required to blab on and can look back on the years and see what was going on in your life on that day.)
The diary was written by a young teenage Florence Wolfson. Lily tracks down Florence and finds the 90 year-old still alive and well today. Using the diary as a guide and Florence's memories for filler, Lily Koppel paints a beautiful tribute to a young girl living her life to the fullest in New York City.
Here's Lily and Florence:
Why did I love this book so much?
-Lily's writing. I feel like I could see what Florence's NYC was like. The sites, sounds, everything was so vivid. While reading the book on the subway and bus, I would look around the city and marvel how much things have changed...and how much they've stayed the same.
-Florence. What an amazing and accomplished woman. She was a writer too and her short lines on her everyday life are so insightful and beautiful. She tried and experimented everything. Some she failed while others she succeeded but it never stopped her from trying. She even experimented in love, both men and women (which was, I thought, pretty darn scandalous reading for back then.) She met and knew some pretty famous people as well, creating a literary salon of sorts. (Great post on her salon over at this blog.)
-The photos. I loved that the book included photos of Florence, the people she loved and knew...just a great part of the book.
-Her European tour at the end of the book. I am SO jealous. Just this part could be made into a movie. A young American girl going touring Europe, which is on the brink of war, while young European men, including an Italian Count, fall madly in love with her. Sigh.
I want to re-read it because there are so many quotes from Florence's diary that I just loved. I need to go back and write them all down. And then buy my own red leather diary because who knows, someday someone might find my little life interesting.
Here's Lily with the diary:
I wish I had reviewed this a long while back when it was all still new and fresh in my head. But I'm sort of glad I didn't, because I found the hardback copy of this book at a library sale. That means I am giving away my paperback copy!
To enter the giveaway:
1) Provide email, blog...a way of contacting you.
2) Have you read any interesting biographies or want to? If so, who?
Giveaway is open to all and through December 22nd. Good luck!
Here's the cover of the copy I'm keeping. Don't you love it?
Also Reviewed by:
Peeking Between the Pages
She is Too Fond of Books
Confessions of a Real Librarian
Bibliophile by the Sea
A Girl Walks into a Bookstore
Book Club Girl