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Review: The Red Leather Diary

March 21, 2009


In 2003, Lily Koppel had recently graduated from college and was working for the New York Times.  She was renting a room in an Upper West Side apartment when the management decided to clean out some storage areas in the basement.  They filled dumpsters with all kinds of items, and Lily was instantly drawn to them.  One of the items she discovered was the five-year diary of teen-aged Florence Wolfson written in the early 1930’s.  Florence wrote in the diary daily from the age of fourteen to the age of nineteen.  Lily read the diary and became fascinated with Florence, the life she led and the New York of the 1930’s.  With the help of an investigative lawyer, Lily was able to find Florence and interview her and her family.

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel  tells the story of a privileged, intelligent, artistic and fascinating young woman living in New York during the depression.  A lot of the diary entries are included, but since they were limited to 3 or 4 lines, most of the story has been reconstructed through interviews, newspaper clippings, old yearbooks, etc. Florence was intelligent and a top-notch student, graduating from high school three years early.  She went on to attend college and was able to pursue art, music, horseback riding and travel to Europe.  (I found it ironic that Barnard turned her down because they found her “too brilliant and individual.)  Florence knew actors, artists and musicians.  She also struggled with finding her place in the world.   Florence is about the same age as my parents, but her life was very different than theirs.  I found this book enthralling and couldn’t put it down.  If you want to know more, visit the book’s web site.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2009 8:01 am

    Great review! This one is on my “To Review” list.

  2. March 21, 2009 8:04 am

    This is on my TBR list. It sounds really good and I’m intrigued by the style in which it is written.

  3. March 21, 2009 8:04 am

    Great review and the book sounds very interesting. My parents are a generation younger, and unfortunately, none of my grandparents, who would’ve been the “right” generation, are alive today. I think the background of the story where a writer finds an old diary in a dumpster is amazing and I wish something like that would happen to me (and of course hopefully the diary I find is an interesting one!)

  4. March 21, 2009 8:29 am

    I loved this book, too!

  5. March 21, 2009 9:03 am

    I agree with you. She certainly had a lot of moxie for such a young girl. I still am in awe of how the author found the diary!

  6. March 21, 2009 9:11 am

    Wow, this sounds like something I’d really enjoy. =) Thanks for the review!

  7. March 21, 2009 9:27 am

    This sounds great. Thanks.

  8. March 21, 2009 9:33 am

    Interesting! Great review, sometimes I think you’re the worst influence on me, every time I read a review you like, I add the book to my TBR wish list.

  9. March 21, 2009 9:51 am

    Great review, Kathy! I have this book as well and hope to get to it this spring. I love books that you can’t put down.

  10. March 21, 2009 10:05 am

    any word on when the book will be available to the masses? it sounds so good!
    nat @ book, line, and sinker

  11. March 21, 2009 11:22 am

    Great review. I’ve got this on my list to read one day.

  12. March 21, 2009 12:21 pm

    This is my dream–to come upon an old diary in the attic (or basement). The fact that she was able to track her down and get the rest of the story is amazing. I must read this!

  13. March 21, 2009 12:42 pm

    My parents would be in this age bracket too. The 1930s and 1940s have always fascinated me. Sounds like the author was pretty plucky to follow through on a dumpster find. Good for her. Thanks for the review.

  14. March 21, 2009 12:44 pm

    I read about this somewhere a couple months ago, and promptly added it to my wishlist. Glad to see your high opinion–I was a little worried about how the diary format might work (or not work, rather).

  15. March 21, 2009 1:08 pm

    I remember reading about this and thinking it sounded wonderful. Glad to know you liked it! It’s going on my wish list.

  16. March 21, 2009 1:29 pm

    Great review. I know if I can get my hands on this one… I will seriously bump it to the top of the to be read pile. It just seems really engrossing. Thanks

  17. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 21, 2009 2:24 pm

    This sounds really interesting. It’s always a much better way to read about history. I’ll have to look for it.

  18. March 21, 2009 3:27 pm

    I am a huge fan of diary/journal style books and this book has been on my wishlist for awhile. I really want to read it and should break down and buy myself a copy!

  19. March 21, 2009 5:55 pm

    This sounds like such an interesting read, I can’t wait to get to it. Thanks for stopping by to read my review of Life Sentences. Do you have the book? I will be interested to see other’s perceptions of it. Have a good weekend!

  20. Carol permalink
    March 21, 2009 6:42 pm

    This is already on my TBR list. It sounds fascinating.

  21. March 21, 2009 6:47 pm

    Another book on my TBR pile. It sounds really interesting. Great review you did, too.

  22. March 21, 2009 9:43 pm

    This must be a good read. How could it miss?!

  23. March 22, 2009 2:40 am

    I loved Hypocrite in a White Pouffy Dress and reviewed it. Loved it.

    Anyway, you get an award from me today!

  24. March 22, 2009 11:19 am

    SO want to read & review this one!

  25. March 22, 2009 12:20 pm

    I’ve been dying to read this book! My local paper did a big write up on Lily’s discovery of the diary and how she reunited Florence with it, before she wrote the book.

  26. March 22, 2009 12:45 pm

    I really liked this book; I wish I could discover an old journal or some other document-type “clue” to track down. This is the type of stuff I love – research, history and connections.

    I realize I haven’t yet written my review for *The Red Leather Diary* … I lent it to a friend and forget about posting it (yes, it’s on my “to-do list” now)

  27. March 22, 2009 2:57 pm

    Love peeks into the past like this so I’m just waiting on my library to get a copy in!

  28. March 22, 2009 9:25 pm

    So glad you also found this book enthralling. I couldn’t believe how fast I read it 🙂

  29. March 22, 2009 9:53 pm

    A friend of mine is reading this right now and recommended it to me. With you recommending it also, I will most definitely check it out 🙂

  30. March 23, 2009 1:18 am

    I can’t wait to get a copy of this book – it sounds absolutely amazing!!

    🙂 Wendi

  31. March 23, 2009 2:12 am

    I picked this one up at my library’s book shelf sale without knowing anything about it at the time. Now I am seeing it reviewed all over the blogsphere and I really want to read it now.

  32. March 23, 2009 11:08 am

    I’m glad you liked this one! I hope to be reading it soon.

  33. March 24, 2009 12:00 am

    Another great review! This one is sitting on my shelf, I hope to get to it soon.

  34. March 24, 2009 10:42 am

    I read this book a while ago for the Jewish Literature Challenge and liked this one as well.. It is a very interesting concept and I loved loved the cover of the book!:)

  35. March 27, 2009 1:57 pm

    I’ve heard lots of good things about this book. I’d like to read it at some point.


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