5 reviews

The Red Address Book
by Sofia Lundberg

Published: 2019-01-08
Hardcover : 304 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 5 of 5 members
“Written with love, told with joy. Very easy to enjoy.”—Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove

The global fiction sensation—publishing in 32 countries around the world—that follows 96-year-old Doris, who writes down the memories of her eventful life as she pages through her ...
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“Written with love, told with joy. Very easy to enjoy.”—Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove

The global fiction sensation—publishing in 32 countries around the world—that follows 96-year-old Doris, who writes down the memories of her eventful life as she pages through her decades-old address book. But the most profound moment of her life is still to come...

Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny—her American grandniece, and her only relative—give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colorful past—working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War—can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?

A charming novel that prompts reflection on the stories we all should carry to the next generation, and the surprises in life that can await even the oldest among us, The Red Address Book introduces Sofia Lundberg as a wise—and irresistible—storyteller.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


The saltshaker. The pillbox. The bowl of lozenges. The blood-pressure monitor in its oval plastic case. The magnifying glass and its red-bobbin-lace strap, taken from a Christmas curtain, tied in three fat knots. The phone with the extra-large numbers. The old red-leather address book, its bent corners revealing the yellowed paper within. She arranges everything carefully, in the middle of the kitchen table. They have to be lined up just so. No creases on the neatly ironed baby-blue linen tablecloth. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Doris calls her red address book “a map of [her] life” (7)? Why does she want to tell her grandniece Jenny about it?

2. Look at Doris’s childhood. Why does Doris’s mother send her away as a child? What is Doris exposed to during this time that she had not previously known about or experienced before? What surprised you, or what did you learn, about this time period in Sweden?

3. Who is Gösta Nilsson and how does Doris meet him? Why do you think that Gösta and Doris are able to form such a close and enduring relationship?

4. Who stops Doris on the street on her way to the butcher and how does this encounter change her life? Is the encounter a lucky one or an unfortunate one? What does Doris say “might be one of the most degrading things you can subject someone to” (50)? Why does she put up with this degradation herself?

5. What does the book reveal about the subject of beauty? What does Doris learn about beauty during her time as a live mannequin? Why does she say that beauty is “the most manipulative force of all” (78)? Do you agree with her? Do Doris’s ideas about beauty evolve as she ages?

6. Why does Doris say that separation is “the worst thing on earth” (98)? How is Doris’s life shaped by the separations that occur? What other separations occur throughout the book and how do the characters cope with them?

7. What does the book seem to suggest about how well we can truly know others? How well did Jenny know her great aunt Doris? Were you surprised by any of the details from Doris’s life? What secrets do she and other characters keep?

8. When Doris begins to write for a living, what does she instinctively know that people will want in their stories? Why do she and Gösta laugh at the stories she writes for women’s magazines? What do you think the author is trying to convey about storytelling and its role in our lives?

9. Both Doris and Jenny are described as beautiful and had professions in modeling, yet they admittedly lack self-confidence. What do you think has contributed to their poor self-image and their inability to see themselves as beautiful? What might have changed or prevented this? How does this compare to how the women in your own life view themselves?

10. According to Doris, what happens to people who experience intense longing? Discuss the relationship between longing and memory and nostalgia.

11. Over the course of their friendship, what does Gösta teach Doris about love and attraction? Where does “the greatest comfort in life come from” (263)? Are they able to provide this comfort for one another?

12. Who do Jenny and Willie set out to find at the end of Doris’s life? Do you agree with their choice to locate this person? Why or why not?
13. What does Jenny learn about her own life and family from Doris’s writings? Who does Doris feel is responsible for Elise’s abandonment of Jenny? What does Doris ask Jenny to do now that she has this new knowledge?
14. How has Doris and Jenny’s relationship evolved over the course of the novel? In what ways have Doris and Jenny each changed or grown by the final pages?
15. What does Doris’s confrontation with old age and her own mortality reveal about what really matters in life? Does the book ultimately suggest what one should value most or prioritize?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Beth4Books (see profile) 12/28/19

by tlctlcx2 (see profile) 02/19/21

  "Adventurous"by Phyllisouthfield (see profile) 11/07/20

You will want to know about Doris. You will care about here life's story.

  "the red address book"by Carolynr (see profile) 06/14/19

my rating i somewhere between a 3.5 and 4
I agree with some of the constructive criticism , in that it is not a "deep" book, and maybe not the greatest literature. And the ending may indee
... (read more)

  "Outstanding Novel"by LMHartman (see profile) 02/02/19

As the book opens, Doris is a Swedish woman in the twilight of her life. She has a nursing service come in to help her once a day, but the caregiver is simply getting the job done without ca... (read more)

  "The Red Address Book"by Silversolara (see profile) 01/02/19

Doris is 96, lives alone in Stockholm, and only has a niece in the United States that she Skypes with.

Doris has caregivers stopping by during the day and is essentially alone except

... (read more)

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