The Red Book: Book summary and reviews of The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan

The Red Book

A Novel

by Deborah Copaken Kogan

The Red Book
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2012
    368 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

Every graduate of Harvard knows the drill: once every five years, they are asked to submit a short essay highlighting their latest career and personal accomplishments. These essays are then collected and published in a red-covered book, known as the Red Book, the mere sight of which causes most alumni to drop whatever it is they are doing to pore through the stories of personal triumphs and failures, tragedies marring otherwise successful lives, and humor and hope even in the midst of despair. How these graduates reply when the alumni office comes calling (including whether or not they reply or write their essays) reveals a great deal, but the actual human beings behind those 3-5 paragraphs come to light only during reunion weekend.

In The Red Book, her touching, provocative, whip-smart romp of a novel where The Big Chill meets Mary McCarthy's The Group, Kogan begins with the Red Book entries for a group of roommates from the class of 1989 who are all headed for their 20th reunion weekend just as the financial and professional walls are crumbling around them: a self-made, childless securities broker, recently pink-slipped, eager to conceive a baby before her fertility window closes; a blue-blood "artist" and former lesbian, married to a writer's-blocked male novelist, living disingenuously and beyond their means off a no-longer-viable trust fund; a former actress, the star of every school production, who has become the stay-at-home wife to a famous Hollywood director; the adopted war orphan, now a foreign correspondent clinging to her dying industry, whose war journalist husband has recently been killed.

These characters load up on the Red Book entries, each of which precedes the chapters in which old friends and acquaintances first appear, then bring their families, their histories, their successes, their failures, their questions, and their desires to a relationship-altering, score-settling, and completely unforgettable reunion weekend.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. What starts out feeling like a marketing-driven 'women's' book - the perfect read for a mani-pedi - turns out to be a smart, funny, engrossing, and action-packed meditation on women's lives, growing up, having and not having it all, class and the expectations that come with having gone to Harvard, love lost and found, infidelity and sexuality, and finally, loss and lying, especially to yourself." - Publishers Weekly

"Kogan has crafted a cast of characters who are relevant, authentic, and very human. A worthy, witty, and engrossing addition to the canon of reunion fiction occupied by Mary McCarthy's The Group, Elizabeth Berg's The Last Time I Saw You, and Tim O'Brien's July, July." - Library Journal

"An unforgettable class reunion… Fans of Mary McCarthy's The Group will be drawn to these women (and the men who come in and out of their lives) as they struggle with their identities in their respective professional and personal fields." - BookPage

The information about The Red Book shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Dawn C. (Meridian, ID)

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Four roommates from Harvard all have very different lives and keep in touch by the Red Book that comes out every 5 years in which each alumni updates their life story in an autobiographical essay that makes up the class report. Much has changed for each of the girls since 1989 and everything becomes very real when they have their 20th class reunion.

Jinny K. (Fremont, CA)

Satisfying Reunion Tale
I just love this kind of book and really looked forward to reading it; I was not disappointed.

The centerpiece of the story was a 20th reunion of four Harvard classmates, book-ended by synopses in their reunion chronicles called the Red Book.

The story was well told, the characters, with all their charms and flaws, stayed true throughout the story and there was enough bittersweetness to prevent the ending Red Book entries from being too good to be true.

Thoroughly engaging and enjoyable!

Vicki O. (Boston, MA)

Pick this one up
It’s the 20th reunion at Harvard for a group of diverse women friends whom we meet initially through their “Red Book” entries. This could have been a run of the mill novel but it is anything but. It’s a terrifically intelligent and funny novel with sharp observations about family, friendship, death, aging, secrets and infidelity. All the characters were very genuine and the dialogue natural, making for a thumbs up reading experience.

Susan S. (Lafayette, CA)

An intelligent page-turner
I loved this book. It's witty, intelligent, insightful, and a page-turner. The transformations the various characters had gone through and were continuing to go through were believable, and so were the characters themselves. And though there were a lot of happy endings, not everything was tied up with a neat little bow at the end (just like real life). I highly recommend this book.

Kathryn K. (Oceanside, CA)

I loved this book!
The Red Book, by Deborah Copaken Kogan is not the typical story about the reunion of best friends from college. Thankfully, neither is it “chick lit” -- a phenomenon that according the San Diego UT (2/12/12) is dying. The characters have depth and are well developed. I liked the fact that they are not cookie cut – all the same. The diversity of persons and the varied life styles, raises the quality of the read and enriches the novel. The plot is refreshingly realistic and interesting. Structured around entries found in Harvard’s, The Red Book, one is drawn into the lives of four friends, 20 years after a 1989 graduation. Like life, the book is at times very poignant -- full of how life just happens and also how we impact what happens. It is wise – and even funny! It will be on my short list for the book discussion groups I lead. I loved this book!

Mary S. (Pinson, AL)

The Red Book is a Great Read
I can’t remember when I have enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed The Red Book. This is a great story of four intelligent roommates at their twentieth reunion weekend. Kogan expresses so well the feelings of a generation growing older and looking back at their younger selves. I love a book that gives you pause for thought. This will definitely be a great book club read.

...20 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Deborah Copaken Kogan is the author of Between Here and April, a novel, and Shutterbabe, the bestselling memoir and soon-to-be TV series on the Sundance Channel about her years as a war photographer. Her photographs have been published in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, L'Express, Libération and Géo, among many other international newspapers and magazines. Her six years as a TV producer, first for ABC News, then Dateline NBC, garnered her an Emmy, and she shot a documentary on post-9/11 Pakistan for CNN. A monthly columnist for the Financial Times, she has also written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Elle, O: The Oprah Magazine, More, Slate, and Paris Match, among others. She has performed live on stage with The Moth, Afterbirth, and Smith Magazine's Six Word Memoir series. She lives in Harlem, NY, with her husband and three children. Visit her online at www.deborahcopakenkogan.com.

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