The Red Address Book: Book summary and reviews of The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

The Red Address Book

by Sofia Lundberg

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg X
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2019
    304 pages
    Genre: Romance

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Book Summary

A charming novel that prompts reflection on the stories we all should carry to the next generation, and the surprises in life that can await even the oldest among us, The Red Address Book introduces Sofia Lundberg as a wise—and irresistible—storyteller.

For fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared comes a heartwarming debut about 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 colorful past—working as a maid in Sweden, modelling 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 of Doris's life?

Paperback published Sept 2019. Hardcover and ebook published Jan 2019

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Why do you think Doris calls her red address book "a map of [her] life" (7)? Why does she want to tell her grandniece Jenny about it?
  2. Look at Doris's childhood. Why does Doris's mother send her away as a child? What is Doris exposed to during this time that she had not previously known about or experienced before? What surprised you, or what did you learn, about this time period in Sweden?
  3. Who is Gösta Nilsson and how does Doris meet him? Why do you think that Gösta and Doris are able to form such a close and enduring relationship?
  4. Who stops Doris on the street on her way to the butcher and how does this encounter change her life? Is the encounter a lucky one or an unfortunate one? What does Doris say "might be one of the most degrading things you can subject someone to" (50)? Why does she put up with this degradation herself?
  5. What does the book reveal about the subject of beauty? What does Doris learn about beauty during her time as a live mannequin? Why does she say that beauty is "the most manipulative force of all" (78)? Do you agree with her? Do Doris's ideas about beauty evolve as she ages?
  6. Why does Doris say that separation is "the worst thing on earth" (98)? How is Doris's life shaped by the separations that occur? What other separations occur throughout the book and how do the characters cope with them?
  7. What does the book seem to suggest about how well we can truly know others? How well did Jenny know her great aunt Doris? Were you surprised by any of the details from Doris's life? What secrets do she and other characters keep?
  8. When Doris begins to write for a living, what does she instinctively know that people will want in their stories? Why do she and Gösta laugh at the stories she writes for women's magazines? What do you think the author is trying to convey about storytelling and its role in our lives?
  9. Both Doris and Jenny are described as beautiful and had professions in modeling, yet they admittedly lack self-confidence. What do you think has contributed to their poor self-image and their inability to see themselves as beautiful? What might have changed or prevented this? How does this compare to how the women in your own life view themselves?
  10. According to Doris, what happens to people who experience intense longing? Discuss the relationship between longing and memory and nostalgia.
  11. Over the course of their friendship, what does Gösta teach Doris about love and attraction? Where does "the greatest comfort in life come from" (263)? Are they able to provide this comfort for one another?
  12. Who do Jenny and Willie set out to find at the end of Doris's life? Do you agree with their choice to locate this person? Why or why not?
  13. What does Jenny learn about her own life and family from Doris's writings? Who does Doris feel is responsible for Elise's abandonment of Jenny? What does Doris ask Jenny to do now that she has this new knowledge?
  14. How has Doris and Jenny's relationship evolved over the course of the novel? In what ways have Doris and Jenny each changed or grown by the final pages?
  15. What does Doris's confrontation with old age and her own mortality reveal about what really matters in life? Does the book ultimately suggest what one should value most or prioritize?


Suggestions for Further Reading

Amis, Kingsley. Ending Up
Backman, Fredrik. A Man Called Ove
Bivald, Katarina. The Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend
Ford, Richard. Let Me Be Frank With You
George, Nina. The Little Paris Bookshop
Hooper, Emma. Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Jonasson, Jonas. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Joyce, Rachel. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Patrick, Phaedra. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
Richman, Alyson. The Velvet Hours
Robinson, Marilynne. Lila
Rooney, Kathleen. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Taylor, Elizabeth. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
Tyler, Anne. A Spool of Blue Thread
Zevin, Gabrielle. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Mariner Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

A Publishers Lunch Buzz Book
A Library Reads Selection
An iBooks Most Anticipated Titles of 2019
A West Virginia Gazette "Books to Check out in the New Year" Pick

"A sweet-tart Swedish romance steeped in memory and regret…The Red Address Book is just the sort of easy-reading tale that will inspire readers to pull up a comfy chair to the fire, grab a mug of cocoa and a box of tissues and get hygge with it." - Helen Simonson, New York Times Book Review

"Written with love, told with joy. Very easy to enjoy." - Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove

"Wise and captivating, Lundberg's novel offers clear-eyed insights into old age and the solace of memory." - People

"In a reader's lifetime, there are a few books that will be companions forever. For me, The Red Address Book is one of them. It will comfort you, and remind you of all the moments when you grabbed life with both hands. It is also an homage to the wisdom of women who have lived longer than most of us. One is never too old to learn that love is the only meaning of life—let's listen to these women." - Nina George, author of The Little Paris Bookshop

"Charming." - Toronto Star

"In this tender and heartfelt story, Sofia Lundberg offers a reminder that those we too easily dismiss, such as the elderly, have rich histories and lives that we can learn from. Completely engrossing from start to finish, The Red Address Book is a poignant tale of memory and how those things we carry in our heart work together to create our own life stories." - New York Journal of Books

"The Red Address Book is a love letter to the human heart.  Full of tenderness and empathy, Lundberg has created more than just a novel—she has created a window into the soul." - Alyson Richman, internationally bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours

"Like a cozy conversation with your grandma, The Red Address Book warms your heart and soul." - BookPage

"A warm and tender story about life, memories, and the power of love and friendship. A novel with heart and humor!" - Katarina Bivald, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

"Doris's life story is magnetic, and it's her strong personality and pearls of wisdom … that drive the book…Fans of Fredrik Backman will find much to like here." - Publishers Weekly

"Sofia Lundberg has written a wonderful debut. The story of the life of Doris is told with a whole lot of love. It is full of warmth and compassion." - Jan-Philipp Sendker, author of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

"A lifetime of memories [is]…Beautifully brought to life in this sweetly elegiac novel." - Bridget Thoreson, Booklist

"You'll be hearing a lot about Sofia in the new year if you're in the UK, but if you're in Sweden, France, Spain, Germany, etc, etc, you'll already know how romantic and fabulous her novel, The Red Address Book is." - Lucy Dillon, author of Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts

"Readers who enjoyed Eleanor Brown's The Light of Paris or Nina George's The Little French Bistro will delight in seeing Doris's life unfold in this charming, tender tale." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Sofia Lundberg Author Biography

Sofia Lundberg is a journalist and former magazine editor. The Red Address Book has been published in 33 territories worldwide.

Author Interview

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