Book Jar Reads: The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan


Jesus this author has a name and a half but it was selected as my first Book Jar Read and I am pretty happy to be giving it a go. It looked intriguing on my book shelf and was bought as part of my attempt to read the Women’s Prize list, which of course didn’t happen in time but I’m still going to keep reading the novels, slowly but surely.

The Red BookThe Red Book is interesting and when reading it it felt a bit like people-watching so I was in my element:

Clover, Addison, Mia, and Jane were roommates at Harvard until their graduation in 1989.

Twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker, is out of a job and struggling to reproduce before her fertility window shuts. Addison’s marriage to a writer’s-blocked novelist is as stale as her so-called career as a painter. Hollywood closed its gold-plated gates to Mia, who now stays home with her children, renovating and acquiring faster than her husband can pay the bills. Jane, the Paris bureau chief for a newspaper whose foreign bureaus are now shuttered, is caught in a vortex of loss.

Like all Harvard grads, they’ve kept abreast of one another via the red book, a class report published every five years, containing alumni autobiographical essays. But there’s the story we tell the world, and then there’s the real story, as these former classmates will learn during their twentieth reunion, a relationship-changing, score-settling, unforgettable weekend.

There was something unnervingly Sex and the City about this novel and though I am not a big fan of the programme, I have watched every episode but am not enamoured by anybody in it, I found Kogan’s characters brilliant. I particularly liked Mia and there was a close affinity with a lot of what she said and did with her children. She had four and her fourth ten years after her third and there’s lots of discussion about her relief as being a mother means she doesn’t have to feel like she’s not becoming the person she should be as a Harvard graduate. I also adore Jane, much of the discussion about her character, history and past is brilliant and she seems key to understanding the point of the whole novel. She discovers infidelity after infidelity and rather than staying shocked and hurt, even when one of the discoveries is her own late husband’s, she seems to become a stronger and more rounded person because of it. I really love the concepts explored through Jane’s character.

The only thing that jarred slightly is Kogan’s teenage characters. There’s a touch of tongue in cheek “I’m a mother so I know what teenagers are like” tone when she plays with her characters which makes them a bit less believable. Trilby’s choice of grindcore, horrorcore type music including an obsession with the extremely obscure band Vaginal Discharge seems a little off, especially with the inclusion of phrases such as “omg I love vaginal discharge” in an odd makeshift Facebook conversation in the middle of the novel. This is my only gripe however.

My obsessive nosiness meant I couldn’t not enjoy this novel and unlike others the yearbook format means I even got a chance to see where the characters were in five years’ time – bliss!

[xrr rating = “4.25/5”]


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