Author: Sofia Lundberg| Genre: Historical Fiction | Pages: 304
Doris Alm is 96 years old and living through perhaps, the last days of her life. She is reliving the past few decades that she has preserved in her RED ADDRESS BOOK, with memories of her life, but most importantly, of people she’s met, of places she’s traveled, of experiences she’s had, of mistakes she’s made, of her first love, of her family, of heartaches, of betrayals, of trials and tribulations, etc.
And now while she is counting her last days perhaps, what can memories kept locked in the heart of an address book bring back to life? What emotions can it stir? What secrets can it unfold? And will hearts be hurt in the process or finally, be healing?
The plot although tender, is not unheard of. I may be breaking hearts here, but the over-exploited space of elderly protagonists in the recent times, is kind of making the whole genre look utterly predictable and less-interesting. In this case, I almost started comparing because Ove or Allan or whoever else I have read, have set certain standards already. Damn!
Having said that, there were a few hooks in this plot that caught the fish. The selfless exploration by Doris’ great great granddaughter – Jenny – who goes out of her way to make Doris happy that one last time, was commendable. Also, everything Willie does for his wife Jenny is almost tear-jerking sweet.
The book flits back and forth from present day to the yesteryears of Doris’ life. There are times, it gets confusing and you do not know whether the narration is from the present or a piece from the past. But here’s why Doris does what she does:
“So many names pass by us in a lifetime. Have you ever thought about that, Jenny? All the names that come and go. That rip our hearts to pieces and make us shed tears. That become lovers or enemies. I leaf through my address book sometimes. It has become something like a map of my life, and I want to tell you a bit about it. So that you, who’ll be the only one who remembers me, will also remember my life. A kind of testament. I’ll give you my memories. They’re the most beautiful thing I have.”
Narration reminds me, there’s plenty of it. Almost always, lengthy dialogues got in my way of enjoying a warm moment. I’d rather not have my character tell me how good a kiss felt and describe it in 200 words, but just show me. Wouldn’t that feel nice? But some people prefer chatty characters and they might like it. This wasn’t for me.
Sweden to Paris to Manhattan, the settings have been precisely described. One almost walks down those lanes while reading. Through Doris’ journeys, the reader has a lot of trails to catch up with, and as with every journey, not all of them are pleasant sights. Especially, what happens with her on the boat to Stockholm.
While there is a lot you feel for Doris, you also start to ponder over the many loose ends you come across. The fashion in which the plot runs makes you believe that those loose will remain so forever. But then you soon realise that it is not so much about the loose ends, but about Doris’ stories that hang off those loose ends. And then you marvel at how well those ends tie memories worth eighty years. The end, however, felt cliched.
All in all, a book good for a one time read. It is warm, tear-jerking tender, You’ll love Doris if you haven’t yet met grandpa Ove. Sadly, for me, it wasn’t so.
If you happen to read ‘The Red Address Book’ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.