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The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life through the Pages of a Lost Journal Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 8, 2008
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It seems like your typical coming-of-age story, except for the fact that Florence's is very much of the place and era she grew up in. Little facts about New York City are revealed: for example, for thirty years, there were little statues of Mercury mounted on top of all the stoplights in the city. That was one of the biggest draws of this book. Florence had a pretty average New York City childhood, all things considered; and adding in those little bits of arcane trivia really spiced things up for me.
There were a couple of problems I had with this book: first, Koppel spends an inordinate amount of time bragging about her accomplishments. The story is ultimately Florence's, and Lily talking about, say, a story she did once detracts from that. Koppel's prose seemed a little bit purpled and hackneyed; she also tries to make generalizations about the New York of today that ultimately don't ring true. Also, I thought the book would have been better if Florence had actually written it herself. She's a writer, so why not?
This impetuous, strong-minded and creative young woman should have been an evocative character, but her exploits were chronicled with a distant and cool hand that left her sounding spoiled and foolish to me. The prose had less life than the brief entries in the diary. I couldn't help thinking that the cold home life alluded to here and there and such events as the house burning down would have had a dramatic effect on an emotional, imaginative girl, yet nothing is made of it at all. We're told Florence wanted to go to school the day after the fire to report the event--only for the dramatic shock effect! Wasn't it rather a plea for attention and/or comfort that was apparently not forthcoming from her parents? This should have been developed (and plenty of other things) to show a sympathetic and multidimensional person who was coping with an intense and complicated situation. The girl who wrote in that diary wasn't a cardboard figure, yet she is made to seem one in the narrative.
Perhaps my expectations for this book were wrong. I thought that based on the diary's entries, a story would be woven that made a young girl and 1930's New York come alive. The author did a fine job of reporting the facts (just the facts, M'am) and there were plenty of them--great research--but no emotion. Considering how dramatic Florence was, it almost seemed silly to report her life like battles in a war. Perhaps things changed further along; I can't say. And again, maybe my expectations were in error and the book was intended to be an accurate chronicle of the facts, but it didn't hold my interest.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
NOT what I expected!! The information given did not mention that it contained exploits of lesbianism!!!! I would not have purchased it otherwise..... Read morePublished 7 days ago by gypsy moth
interesting story about a found diary -- written well, but I wouldn't put it on my "favorites" listPublished 4 months ago by jane song
I am enjoying my new book The Red Leather Diary I can't put it down.Published 4 months ago by Judith T.
Just started this book and am caught up in the New York City of the late 20's early 30's. Did anyone realize that the largest garnet in this country was "mined" by a... Read morePublished 6 months ago by susan howard