2009: 12. Red Leather Diary

“Once upon a time the diary had a key.  Little red flakes now crumble off the worn cover.”

Red Leather Diary, Lily Koppel

This is a great story, but not a great book.  What happened was, the author (who was a New York journalist) came home to her upper West side apartment to find that they were clearing out the trunk room and throwing hundreds of vintage trunks away.*  Koppel crawls into the dumpster and finds all these crazy vintage items, including a red leather diary.  When she opens the diary it tells the story of five years in the life of Florence, a headstrong and creative young woman growing up in 1920’s Manhattan.  She is wealthy and creative - searching for love and art (and dabbling in lesbianism), meeting famous people, starting a salon, creating her life.  It is, obviously, a dream story, especially when Koppel finds Florence, who is still alive and living in Florida.  The problem is that while her story when told in the form of her crazy diary might have been awesome, when Koppel retells it is sort of bland.  The book just doesn’t live up to the potential of the tale and I had expected more from the premise.  Perhaps it is one of those great magazine articles that can’t really sustain a book? 

It is also kind of a sad story - the Florence of the book is so excited about life and had so many dreams and desires, and while she had a perfectly nice life, it wasn’t what she had wanted.  And yeah, that is life, but the way Koppel wrote it makes it seem like when she showed Florence the diary, Florence was disappointed by how her life turned out.  Which, is just depressing.  Not what I had been expecting when I picked up the book. 


*Which seems so, so hard to believe, particularly given what was in the trunks, but whatever.


Date/Place Completed:  February 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Non-Fiction; Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017