The Red Book
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The Red Book

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  3,126 ratings  ·  641 reviews
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 gol...more
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Published (first published 2012)
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Emily Crowe
Ugh, what a disappointment! First of all, I was expecting non-fiction, but that's my fault for not knowing enough about the book when I picked it up. But more importantly, I was expecting something with a LOT more substance than this book has. I read her first book, Shutterbabe, which was the story of her time as a photojournalist in war-torn countries, and it was just great. Reading Red Book makes me feel as if the author has somehow sold out, leaving behind her heavy-hitting stories for a grou...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The “red book” is an anniversary chronicle that is passed to Harvard alumni every five years, asking them for basic information, such as address, email, occupation, spouse/partner, children, if any, and a concise summary of the past half-decade of their lives. The author uses this framework to enlarge on these capsulized lives of several 1989 graduates, and constructs an ensemble comedy/drama that entertains as it engages, moves while it thrills.

The central story focuses on four women who gradu...more
Jessica Knauss
The Red Book was hard for me to get into because it starts with the least sympathetic character, then proceeds to introduce a number of characters it's nearly impossible to keep track of, hopping in and out of all their heads like an especially psychologically perceptive housefly. By the tenth page, I had decided that, in spite of my interest in Ivy League culture and love of Boston, I was not the right audience for this book. But I'm not a reader who gives up easily, and I found that by the mid...more
Valentina
I’m ambivalent about this book. This is not the usual for me, so bear with me while I try to make some sense of my own thoughts.
The premise, I think, is fantastic. A bunch of Harvard alumni coming together for their twentieth reunion, bringing with them their lives, loves, children, and emotional baggage. It could have been a profoundly moving book, but somewhere in there it began to lose some of its wit and spark. I think the main problem is that the characters are all quite unlikeable. It seem...more
Cathy Mcd
Somewhat enjoyable look behind the curtain at Harvard. Few characters to care about, but the ones about whom you did care, were barely fleshed out and were not provided a decent end to their story arc. Set-ups to major plot points were so obvious that by the time you got to that part of the book, you are already over it and have moved on to whatever it is that gave you hope for a climactic end.

Bottom line: if you like you stories about overly self absorbed Ivy league twats who, while facing thei...more
Nette
Hugely disappointing. I was looking forward to well-written, juicy old-fashioned "four girls from college reconnect" novel (believe me, it's an actual genre) but this one's big mess. Look, if you're writing a novel about four separate individuals and giving four different POVs, do not make each woman sound EXACTLY THE SAME. Never mind the bad writing, it's really confusing for the reader.

The tone veers from drama to comedy (sort of) but not in a good way. There's a lot of weirdly gross detail a...more
Nicole
What fun--a book about people my age who were much, much smarter in high school. (It's well-written, and enjoyable so far.)

I liked this book, particularly the interesting way of telling the stories (making use of the Red Book). A lot of Gen X cliche, but one part in particular bothered me in its predictability. I did enjoy the characters, though this method of writing about them didn't allow for a large amount of depth. It would be interesting to have had a bit more.
Diane
I had never heard of Harvard's Red Book before I recently read Deborah Copaken Kogan's novel, The Red Book. Every five years, Harvard compiles a book filled with short essays written by each graduate, sharing what they have been up to in the past five years.

The actual Red Book made headlines recently when infamous graduate Ted Kazcynski, the man known to the world as the Unabomber, returned his questionnaire listing his occupation as 'prisoner' and under the awards section, wrote 'eight life sen...more
HW
I read this one recent Sunday...began in the afternoon and did not put it down until I finished at two in the morning....a lovely and rare indulgence. I found the failures and triumphs of these women poignant, beautifully described...and relevant. Yes they are privileged, but oh so very human. Kogan's ability to describe moments of intimate human interaction shimmers. Enjoy...
Susie
"I am stronger than I thought I was and weaker than I'd hoped to be, and in between those two extremes is a little thing like life."

Four friends, roommates in college, come back to their twentieth year reunion at Harvard. All of them struggling with their own personal crises, and all of them helping and hurting themselves, their friends, and their children in the process. Kogan carefully navigates the banalities of four women's lives and gives an introspective to being a "40 something" so intere...more
Marion
Though I did not know about "The Red Book" (Harvard alumni publication) before picking up this book at the library, I was immediately drawn to it because (1) I graduated from college in 1989, the same year as the alums in this book (at their 20th reunion) and (2) I worked at private schools and wrote and edited class notes for alumnae/alumni publications. I found this to be a fun and enjoyable read, and eventually bought it for my e-reader. (Yes, library books do create book/e-sales.) I think it...more
Heidi Gonzalez
So many of us try to project that we have the perfect life, when in reality it is anything but. These four roomates are struggling, Jane with her boyfriend having cheated on her while she was away in the states, Clover with her husband's indifference with their struggle with infertility, Addison, with her rocky marriage and figuring out she has no attraction to her husband, and Mia whose life seems like a fairy tale but her husband is hiding a secret.

I have to be honest I thought the beginning...more
Virginia Campbell
There are three inescapable truths about human beings: the way we see ourselves, the way we are perceived by others, and the way we actually exist. A twenty-year class reunion is the perfect venue to display all three views, as the attendees meet, mix, mingle and migrate through survival of the event. In "The Red Book", Deborah Copaken Kogan serves us a slice of Harvard Pie, as the lives of four roommates from the class of '89 are detailed and given a fortyish mid-life checkup as they reunite af...more
Carrie
Terrific writing; likeable, complex characters; and an anti-Puritanical morality that I didn't quite mesh with. This was a fascinating account of four friends and their families as they meet up for Harvard's 20th reunion. Amazing how much happens over a three day weekend. This is the book that Seating Arrangements was trying to be, but this one actually succeeds: telling the story of looking back on life lived, and looking forward to how to continue living that life.

Great book, even if I did pr...more
Tanya Sen
Every five years, the Harvard alumni office asks the graduates of a particular class to fill out an entry about what they've been up to for the last few years. These entries make up the "Red Book", which is circulated to all members of that class.

This novel is set at the 20th year reunion weekend of four women who were roommates at Harvard. It is interspersed with fictionalised "Red Book" entries, which take you through the lives and loves of the Class of 1989, as they make the journey from col...more
Vicki Oleskey
It’s the 20th reunion at Harvard for a group of diverse women friends whom we meet initially through their “Red Book” entries. This could have been a run of the mill novel but it is anything but. It’s a terrifically intelligent and funny novel with sharp observations about family, friendship, death, aging, secrets and infidelity. All the characters were very genuine and the dialogue natural, making for a thumbs up reading experience
Cheri
This book was wonderful! Even though there were many characters introduced throughout, it wasn't confusing and I felt like I got to know each one. I actually laughed and cried as I read The Red Book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a character-driven story.
Carrie
I couldn't decide between 3 or 4 stars, but judging the book on what is essentially is - a really good beach read - merits the 4 star treatment. Contrary to other reviewers, I did not find it too difficult to keep up with the many characters and in fact enjoyed the way the story was presented. Sure it doesn't allow for in depth character development, but that us not the purpose of this book. I also do not understand the reviews that complain of a lack of sympathetic characters. Given a choice be...more
Hailey
I had such high hopes for The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan but in the end was left feeling somewhat disappointed. The idea for the book was great, but unfortunately, the execution was very poor.

The Red Book tells the story of four class of '89 Harvard roomates: Addison, Clover, Jane, and Mia, and their former classmates, spouses and children. Most of the action occurs at their 20th reunion, where they have gathered on campus with various children, spouses, partners. The characters are a bi...more
Douglas Tatelman
I like this book but didn't like any of the characters. I really like the author, but have many differences of opinion with her.

I'm glad I read Ms Kogan's previous non fiction book first. She therein revealed her fascination with the Harvard Alumni "Red Book" and her desire to create a "Big Chill" for her generation. She successfully does this.

The author is a fascinating, worldly woman. Not a trust fund child, a working person. A former war photographer in Afghanistan, and now a Vespa riding, fr...more
Stephanie D.

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan refers to an actual red book published and distributed by Harvard to its alumni, where everyone’s whereabouts, occupation, and marital status are listed, as well as essays about what they’ve been up to in the past five years. There’s a quaint formality to this tradition, especially in the age of Facebook and the ability of most people to be “Googlable,” but it also forces each alum to regularly take stock of his/her life and be held accountable to themselves...more
Katie
"Red book" is apparently the book sent out to all Harvard alumni every 5 years to catch everybody up on where everyone is in life (this is a foreign concept to me, having graduated from the 30,000+ student body of UC/Berkeley). This book centers around a group of old Harvard friends who reconvene at the 20th anniversary reunion. It's an ensemble piece, with lots of spouses, kids, and random acquaintances to fill in the story.

It was sort of a guilty pleasure... almost like a soap opera but not q...more
Mandy
At first, I thought 'Ooh, I quite liked this' but the more it sat with me, the angrier I got about it. A strange reaction perhaps, but I felt disappointed by the predictability of the plot.

The red book of the title refers to the red book that is sent out before every Harvard reunion, filled with everyone's updates for the past five years. Every entry includes the basic stats: name, address, contact, spouse/kids etc, as well as a little paragraph or two explaining where they're at. Considering th...more
Lorie Eckert
I really loved this author's previous book, Between Here and April, and so I was eager to read this new book and then I was very disappointed when I read it. Though there were only four main characters, and two of the four had distinctively different backgrounds, it was still very difficult to keep the characters straight. And then add on their children, their spouses, their old college friends and so forth and the cast of characters got way out of control.

The "Red Book" itself, is the book Har...more
Katherine
Oh, how I love a four girls book! And this one met many of my guilty pleasure needs for this sort of thing: four very different privileged girls / women at school (or in this case, returning for their reunion), friends despite the fact that they have little in common but for their shared past, confronting some sort of challenge...

In this case, I could buy into these four being friends, despite their differences, and I enjoyed the author's exploration of the choices they'd made and the consequen...more
Michelle
Coincidentally I read this a couple of weeks after I read fem classic “The Group” and this is very The Groupe-esque, though not nearly as good. The Red Book follows four girls who graduated together from Harvard although, unlike its predecessor, we meet them twenty years later at their reunion instead of immediately after graduation. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this. I didn’t really care about any of the characters. They weren’t unlikeable, they just weren’t memorable. And there wer...more
David Jay
What a well written, interesting and really fun book to read. The characters are flawed and engrossing and on the edge of unrealistic but in a way that didn't bother me at all.

Clover, Addison, Jane, and Mia are Harvard, class of '89, former roommates, at their 20 year reunion. I am Vassar, class of '88 and my three former housemates are still my best friends (two of whom are on my good reads friends list!), so the book pushed my buttons in a positive way (though I missed my 20 year reunion, and...more
Betsy
I feel that I'm being somewhat generous with a two-star rating, however because I actually invested the time to finish the novel (despite being utterly annoyed by its shallow nature), I felt one star wouldn't give my personal time in reading in (two evenings) justice. Anyway, Kogan's novel can best be summed up as "Smut disguised as Chick Lit disguised as an intellectual read."

If you're a fan of "Fifty Shades of Grey-esque" novels, then this may appeal to you. Frankly, I was extremely misguided...more
Nadine Dajani
It's too bad you can't give partial stars on here because this is a 3.5 or maybe even a 3.85 star book - just not quite 4 stars.

It's not the premise that's the issue - four Harvard-grad friends reunite for their 20 year graduation reunion and hilarity ensues - the premise is actually great, and it's not the writing, because I enjoyed the writing quite a bit. It may be that the author bit off more that she could chew in a 350 page tome. Here we find the four overeducated protagonists - Addison, t...more
Renita D'Silva
I LOVED this book. I started off thinking I wouldn't, that it was a light read with not much substance despite the raving reviews, but I gradually changed my mind on both counts. This is a story about Harvard graduates meeting up after twenty years, and is an incisive portrait into how life and the ravages of time wreak havoc with dreams. Beautifully written, very wise, I would highly recommend this book. The only person I did not warm to and thought got off too lightly was Addison, but then tha...more
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“If I've learned anything in the twenty-five years that have transpired between graduation and today it is this: I am stronger than I thought I was and weaker than I'd hoped to be, and in between those two extremes is a little thing called life.” 0 likes
“I love this idea," Bruno says. "Of being broken but finding pleasure in it.” 0 likes
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