This month we meet Doris, 96, who lives alone in a Stockholm apartment.
She doesn't get much social contact beyond the caregivers who come round, and speaking to her great-niece Jenny in the US. But what she does have is her memories, many of them stored in the precious red address book she has had since she was ten years old and began using it to “collect her friends”.
Now, she tells their stories — and her own — in a document that she writes for Jenny, in an effort to keep her memories alive. As she tells her great-niece, this is the story of:
“All the names that come and go. That rip our hearts to pieces and make us shed tears. That become lovers or enemies. I leaf through my address book sometimes. It has become something like a map of my life, and I want to tell you a bit about it. So that you, who’ll be the only one who remembers me, will also remember my life. A kind of testament. I’ll give you my memories. They’re the most beautiful thing I have.”
These memories cover her time modelling in Paris, unemployed and struggling in the US, and at home in Sweden, and they describe the loves and friendships of her life.
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This is a book that has become a bestseller in many countries, and this month seems like an important time to think about Doris's real-life counterparts — elderly people who live alone and have few family members or friends around them.
What does the book teach you about Sweden?
Doris's life is shaped by moves and separations. What impact does each of them have on her? Which of her experiences can you relate to?
How does the relationship between Doris and Jenny change through the novel?
Does the story remind you of anything you have read or watched before, or any experiences from your own life?
- What does the story tell us about a) beauty and b) writing? Which other themes or motifs did you identify?
If you'd like to share your thoughts on The Red Address Book, any ideas on what we should read next, or other suggestions for the Book Club, join The Local Sweden's Book Club on Facebook, or send us an email.