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The Red Book Hardcover – April 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Four college roommates from Harvard’s class of 1989 head to their 20-year reunion with partners, spouses, children, and plenty of emotional baggage in tow. Coming from wildly diverse backgrounds, Clover, Addison, Jane, and Mia have continued on divergent postgraduate tracks. From one woman’s dreams of an independent art career stifled by her husband’s writing job to another’s acting ambitions overshadowed by the demands of motherhood, the women take this opportunity to realize how their college dreams have slowed, shifted, or disappeared entirely while new opportunities have opened up. Author Kogan does an admirable job of giving her diverse group uniquely personal narration styles, and some refreshingly comic scenes break up expected swaths of reflective nostalgia. Kogan’s commitment to her characters is evident in this sweeping novel, where remembrances of things past mingle with the characters’ excitement and unease at what their futures hold. For readers who enjoyed Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses (2011) or Meg Waite Clayton’s The Four Ms. Bradwells (2011), this snappy, empathetic portrait of past regrets, settled scores, and shared history is an engaging read. --Stephanie Turza


'Compulsive reading' -- Meg Wolitzer, Author Of The Uncoupling 'Destined to be a classic ... a sharply funny, clear-eyed examination, in the vein of Mary McCarthy's The Group, of the power and burden of privilege, the reality of being a modern woman and the lasting bonds of female friendship' Vanity Fair --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 347 pages
  • Publisher: Voice; First Edition first Printing edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781401340827
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401340827
  • ASIN: 1401340822
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #952,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

1966-1966: Born in Boston, MA; moved to Adelphi, MD six months later. Allegedly.

1966-1970: The preschool years; fuzzy memories of hippies, astronauts.

1970-1978: Moved from Adelphi to Potomac, MD. Attended flower-shaped elementary school that had no walls; first writing award; weird obsession with Jonestown massacre.

1978-1981: Hormones.

1981-1984: Gigantic public high school; reams of angsty poetry; first pieces published in Seventeen.

1984-1988: The college years, which coincided with the crack/AIDS years: mugged at gunpoint unrelentingly, mated cautiously; made films, shot photos, wrote articles for the school paper, performed in school plays and one film, Key Exchange; rejected by every creative writing course in the Harvard catalogue.

1988-1992: The croissant/photojournalism years; stored clothes, personal items in Paris, France, while parachuting in from conflict to conflict (Afghanistan, Israel, Romania, Zimbabwe, the USSR, etc.) Won awards, had exhibitions; images published in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, L'Express, Libération, Géo, Stern, etc.

1992-1998: Moved from Moscow to New York; produced TV for ABC then NBC News; got married, had a couple of babies, won an Emmy, inexpertly juggled work and kids; loudly whined for subsidized daycare, secretly pined to be a writer.

1998-now: Wrote bestselling Shutterbabe, followed by unpublishable drivel, followed by Between Here and April, Hell is Other Parents, and the New York Times bestselling The Red Book; published essays in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Elle, More, Slate, Paris Match, O, and others; shot photo assignments; produced and shot a documentary in Pakistan for CNN in the wake of 9/11; became a columnist for The Financial Times; performed live on stage with The Moth, Afterbirth, Six Word Memoir, and Eve Ensler's tribute to Anita Hill; adapted Hell is Other Parents for the stage; wrote several screenplays and a TV pilot that were never produced; watched Shutterbabe (the big and small-screen versions) languish in development hell; had another baby; lost appendix, father, Upper West Side home, bearings, socks, sanity, and several nouns; found Harlem, yoga, and occasional serenity. But not the socks. Or the whatchamacallit. Nouns.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Every five years, Harvard requests that its alumnae send in an updated account of their lives. This is called The Red Book. Alum from all over the world send in updates of what they've been doing, who they are partnered with, the number of children they have, information on their jobs and write whatever they think will be of interest to their classmates. This novel is about the Harvard class of 1989 that is getting together for their 20th reunion in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The novel centers on four alum - Mia, Clover, Addison and Jane - who roomed together when they were students. Mia is primarily a mother with four children. Mothering comes naturally to her and she loves it. She has three boys who are already pretty self-sufficient and she has a new-born girl named Zoe. She is married to Jonathon, a successful Hollywood director, and they have a house in California and one in Antibes, France. When Mia first graduated Harvard, she had hoped to be an actress but this dream never came to fruition.

Clover is married, though this happened to her rather late in life. She had worked in the mortgage backing department of Lehman brothers until the company went bankrupt. Currently she is unemployed and living off her past earnings. She has a place in Manhattan and in the Hamptons. She and her husband are trying to have a child. Half-black and half-white, Clover comes from a different sort of background. She lived on a commune with hippies and was witness to all sorts of drug-inspired orgies and was home-schooled until entering Harvard.

Addison's background is privileged. She comes from generations of people who have attended Harvard and feels entitled to just about everything.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Red Book was hard for me to get into because it starts with the least sympathetic character, then proceeds to introduce a number of characters it's nearly impossible to keep track of, hopping in and out of all their heads like an especially psychologically perceptive housefly. By the tenth page, I had decided that, in spite of my interest in Ivy League culture and love of Boston, I was not the right audience for this book. But I'm not a reader who gives up easily, and I found that by the middle of the book, when we start to see some of the more meaningful revelations, I was well-trained in jumping between the characters' perspectives, and by the end, the technique actually worked in the story's favor. Not a Harvard alum, I've never read a "red book," so was skeptical as to whether the personal essays were realistic, but they served as convenient character guides when I just couldn't figure out who was who otherwise.

I haven't read any of the author's other books, but she does have some clout coming in, and by the time I was three-quarters of the way through, I had decided she had enough psychological depth to carry off what she was trying to do. I ended up really enjoying the way she takes each character and implies big themes about that character's stage in life. I never did sympathize with that first character, Addison. However, her story arc included a really terrible husband who was echoed lightly in one of the others, and both husbands left the picture. That contributed to the satisfying sense that in spite of all the things that have gone so terribly, everybody's going to be just fine.

This book about Harvard alums will astonish with the incredible range of life experience it manages to pack in, and give book clubs in particular a lot to talk about.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The "red book" is an anniversary chronicle that is passed to Harvard alumni every five years, asking them for basic information, such as address, email, occupation, spouse/partner, children, if any, and a concise summary of the past half-decade of their lives. The author uses this framework to enlarge on these capsulized lives of several 1989 graduates, and constructs an ensemble comedy/drama that entertains as it engages, moves while it thrills.

The central story focuses on four women who graduated together--Addison, Clover, Mia, and Jane. Secondary and tertiary characters include spouses, lovers, friends, children, and other graduates that fill in the spaces and paint a portrait of a once close-knit community that has diverged over the past two decades. As the twenty-year reunion in Cambridge approaches, certain lives are headed toward catastrophe, some are on a precipice, and many are headed into serious change.

Addison is stuck in a static marriage with a thoughtless, selfish man who barely helped raise their kids. Clover struggles with fertility issues and an employment problem. Her banking career went belly-up with the 2008 economic collapse, and her husband refuses to squirt in a specimen cup. Mia is happily married to a prominent, much older Hollywood director, has two teenagers and a new baby, but is blind to the truth of their assets.

Jane, a widow and successful journalist, lived in Paris with her daughter and boyfriend until he betrayed her trust while she was in Boston caring for her terminally ill mother. Jane knew grief at a tender age--she was a Vietnamese child orphan, a casualty of war, then adopted by Americans.
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