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The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal (P.S.)

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The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal (P.S.) Cover

ISBN13: 9780061256783
ISBN10: 0061256781
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Rescued from a Dumpster on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a discarded diary brings to life the glamorous, forgotten world of an extraordinary young woman.

For more than half a century, the red leather diary lay silent, languishing inside a steamer trunk, its worn cover crumbling into little flakes. When a cleaning sweep of a New York City apartment building brings this lost treasure to light, both the diary and its owner are given a second life.

Recovered by Lily Koppel, a young writer working at the New York Times, the journal paints a vivid picture of 1930s New York--horseback riding in Central Park, summer excursions to the Catskills, and an obsession with a famous avant-garde actress. From 1929 to 1934, not a single day's entry is skipped.

Opening the tarnished brass lock, Koppel embarks on a journey into the past, traveling to a New York in which women of privilege meet for tea at Schrafft's, dance at the Hotel Pennsylvania, and toast the night at El Morocco. As she turns the diary's brittle pages, Koppel is captivated by the headstrong young woman whose intimate thoughts and emotions fill the pale blue lines. Who was this lovely ingenue who adored the works of Baudelaire and Jane Austen, who was sexually curious beyond her years, who traveled to Rome, Paris, and London?

Compelled by the hopes and heartaches captured in the pages, Koppel sets out to find the diary's owner, her only clue the inscription on the frontispiece--This book belongs to . . . Florence Wolfson, A chance phone call from a private investigator leads Koppel to Florence, a ninety-year-old woman living with her husband of sixty-seven years. Reunited with her diary, Florence venturesback to the girl she once was, rediscovering a lost self that burned with artistic fervor.

Joining intimate interviews with original diary entries, Koppel reveals the world of a New York teenager obsessed with the state of her soul and her appearance, and muses on the serendipitous chain of events that returned the lost journal to its owner. Evocative and entrancing, The Red Leather Diary re-creates the romance and glitter, sophistication and promise, of 1930s New York, bringing to life the true story of a precocious young woman who dared to follow her dreams.

Synopsis:

For more than half a century, the red leather diary languished inside a steamer trunk. Rescued from a Dumpster on Manhattan's Upper West Side, it found its way to Lily Koppel, a young writer, who opened its tarnished brass lock and journeyed into an enthralling past. The diary painted a breathtaking portrait of a bygone New York—of glamorous nights at El Morocco and elegant teas at Schrafft's during the 1920s and '30s—and of the headstrong, endearing teenager who filled its pages with her hopes, heartaches, and vivid recollections. Intrigued, Koppel followed her only clue, a frontispiece inscription, to its now ninety-year-old owner, Florence Wolfson, and was enchanted as Florence, reunited with her diary, rediscovered a lost younger self burning with artistic fervor.

Joining intimate interviews with original diary entries, The Red Leather Diary re-creates the romance and promise of a remarkable era and brings to life the true story of a daring, precocious young dreamer.

About the Author

Lily Koppel writes for the New York Times and other publications. She lives in New York City.

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Wendy Robards, February 14, 2009 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
In 2003, journalist Lily Koppel exited her apartment at 98 Riverside Drive in New York and was surprised to see more than fifty trunks and valises from a bygone era piled high in a red dumpster. Intrigued, she climbed up and began excavating. Amid relics from the 1920s and 30s, stored within the confines of a forgotten trunk, was a small red leather diary written by a young girl. This discovery would not only change the course of Koppel’s life, but would open up the long forgotten world of Florence Wolfson - a precocious and passionate young woman who dreamed of a literary life and sought love while growing up in New York City. Born in 1915, Florence Wolfson came of age during Prohibition, the Depression and WWII. She was raised by Jewish immigrant parents who worked their way up to Manhattan’s fashionable neighborhoods. Florence’s voice within the pages of her diary drew Koppel to her. Here was a young girl who was highly intelligent, ahead of her time and driven to live life to its fullest.

The Red Leather Diary combines diary entries with narrative developed from interviews Koppel had with ninety year old Florence…who she located with help from a private investigator three years after discovering the diary. The book gives the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and dreams of a privileged girl who excelled in music, art and writing. It is also filled with teenage passion and drama as Florence discovers love with both boys and girls. Florence Wolfson started a literary salon (a novel idea) in 1934 which included famous poets John Berryman and Delmore Schwartz; and she traveled alone to Europe in 1936, on the cusp of WWII. Koppel captures the life of this enigmatic and strongly independent young woman perfectly.

But the book is not just about Florence - it is also about its author who arrived in New York City at the age of 22 seeking to make her own mark in the world. In an interview at the end of the book, Lily Koppel writes:

"When I moved to New York, like every young person drawn to the big city, my quest echoed Florence’s: I was seeking love, meaning in my life, and, as a writer, a story."

Koppel’s discovery inflamed her imagination. When she finally was able to meet Florence Wolfson face to face, an immediate friendship formed - a unique connection between a young woman at the beginning of her life and an older woman looking back on her youth.

"How do you feel when a forgotten chunk of your life, full of adolescent angst and passion, is handed to you? How do you feel when you see your striving, feeling, immature self through your now elderly eyes? It stopped my heart for a moment. That was me?" - written by Florence (Wolfson) Howitt, September 3, 2007 -

I read straight through The Red Leather Diary, finding myself immersed in a time long gone through the words of a girl who wanted to live in the center of it all. Koppel has written a marvelous book that tugs at the reader’s imagination.

Highly recommended.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061256783
Author:
Koppel, Lily
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Author:
by Lily Koppel
Subject:
Women
Subject:
New york (n.y.)
Subject:
Diaries -- Authorship.
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Biography-Women
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20090131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 0.97 in 15.84 oz

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Related Subjects


Biography » General
Biography » Women
Featured Titles » Biography
Featured Titles » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Americana » Northeast
History and Social Science » Sale Books
History and Social Science » US History » Social and Economic History
History and Social Science » World History » General
Metaphysics » General

The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780061256783 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , For more than half a century, the red leather diary languished inside a steamer trunk. Rescued from a Dumpster on Manhattan's Upper West Side, it found its way to Lily Koppel, a young writer, who opened its tarnished brass lock and journeyed into an enthralling past. The diary painted a breathtaking portrait of a bygone New York—of glamorous nights at El Morocco and elegant teas at Schrafft's during the 1920s and '30s—and of the headstrong, endearing teenager who filled its pages with her hopes, heartaches, and vivid recollections. Intrigued, Koppel followed her only clue, a frontispiece inscription, to its now ninety-year-old owner, Florence Wolfson, and was enchanted as Florence, reunited with her diary, rediscovered a lost younger self burning with artistic fervor.

Joining intimate interviews with original diary entries, The Red Leather Diary re-creates the romance and promise of a remarkable era and brings to life the true story of a daring, precocious young dreamer.

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