Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book #19: The Red Leather Diary

I skipped posting a blog about number 17-18, because it was me re-reading George R.R. Martin's A Clash of Kings, and I wasn't sure you needed to hear me gush about it - though I am now trying to track down a hardcover copy, as the spine of my paperback's cracked (hate when that happens, but it my defense, the books over 900 pages long!).

Number 19 for me was Lily Koppel's The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal.

Koppel, a journalist for the New York Times, is leaving her apartment building in New York City one morning when she comes across a treasure trove - stacks of old, 1930s era steamer trunks. Despite already being late for work, Koppel dives in, and ends up over her head in relics - flapper dresses and old lingerie, fur coats and family heirlooms... and, perhaps most intriguing, the red leather diary that gives the book its name.

Through some old fashioned detective work, she (and a real private eye!) track down the diary's owner, Florence. The book transports you through the woman's life, as recorded in the diary from 1929 through 1934.

I read this one in less than a day - I felt myself drawn back every time I attempted to put it down, something I've felt few times from books this year. The candor with which Florence details her life, including the sexual relationships she has with women (under her parents' roof!) was captivating.

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys memoir, the era of the 1930s, or old New York City.

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