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Book Review: The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel

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The Red Leather Diary is a book written from a genuine diary written in 1930s New York. The original was the work of Florence Wolfson; it was found and its story fleshed out by Lily Koppel. She found it in an abandoned trunk in a storage room in her building.

Florence was a teenage girl with an exceptional life. She fascinated Koppel and with the help of an investigator, the young would-be writer found the diarist.

Florence as a teenager wrote with great honesty and maturity. "Have stuffed myself with Mozart and Beethoven — I feel like a ripe apricot — I'm dizzy with the exotic."

She had love affairs with both men and women. She was educated and traveled extensively. Some of her acquaintances are well known today, one being Pulitzer Prize winner John Berryman.

The original short diary entries — Florence never missed a day — are drawn out into longer more detailed accounts, thanks to the time the author spent with Wolfson, who was pleased to see her diary again and was happy to share stories of her life. "I was so full of the love of life… It was my world, a whole different world. You know, you're reconstructing that life for me."

Florence led a glamorous life and didn't seem to suffer during the Great Depression. She was independent, strong and focused. She was a romantic who loved the arts and excelled in them.

I enjoyed getting to know Wolfson and her family. I love New York and it gave me chills to read about places Florence went knowing I had also once been in the same building. Lily Koppel found a genuine treasure in this diary, a life so full and rich that would have gone unnoticed had it not been for her.

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