Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt / Caroline Preston
New York: Harper Collins, c2011.
236 p.: fully illustrated!

I discovered this delightful book by chance this week, and have simply raced through it! It is a gorgeously created "scrapbook" of one Frances Pratt, of Cornish, New Hampshire. Frankie (she hates 'Frances') begins her scrapbook after high school graduation in 1920, and adds to it for the next 8 years, as she goes off to Vassar College, moves to New York and then to Paris, living a bohemian/starving artist lifestyle. As one of the blurbs says, it's like "reading your flapper great-aunt's diary". Such fun -- I can barely keep myself from talking in Twenties influenced rhythms of speech now!

This is extraordinary in its format. It's a fully illustrated book, using vintage images and realia that Frankie has "pasted" into her scrapbook, and yet there is a strong narrative created through both images and Frankie's typed addendums to each page. The look of the slips of paper carefully typed on an old Corona typewriter and stuck in is so realistically scrapbook-like, but still carries the story on. I just wish we could find Frankie's full run of scrapbooks, as it feels like she's put together the best bits for us, and what isn't said is as important as what is. At the beginning she says she will type a page a day so we just know there's more somewhere ;)

Frankie has a few ill-judged love affairs, gets her hair bobbed, lives in Greenwich Village on Edna St Vincent Millay's advice, moves on to Paris and Shakespeare & Co., meets a wonderful friend and two Russian expatriate Princes on the way to Paris, experiences passion and heartbreak, and finally returns home to care for her mother when she catches TB. Of course she shares all this in an inimitable spunky and honest style. There is sass, humour, loneliness, hope and True Love in this book, and all of it great fun to read and then go back and pore over. Each page is a delight to examine and find more bits to enjoy.

Perhaps it's because I'm a librarian with tendencies toward gathering up vintage items -- but I LOVED this book. It kicked me right up out of my reading slump and provided some cheerful entertainment of just the sort I adore. On looking further into the author's work I discovered she has worked as an archivist, and that collector's instinct shows here. Lovely, lovely idea, and beautifully executed. To get a look yourself, and to find out about the research she had to do on Ebay, check out her engaging website. And you can get a preview of the layout there as well -- do take a look! Really, this one is a winner, and would be an excellent gift this year for anyone even vaguely interested in scrapbooking, collage, 20's fashions, history, or who simply wants to read a great story of a woman's life.

As Frankie might say:

November 16, 2011



  1. I'm seeing some really good reviews of this one and becoming VERY tempted! Enabler! :)

  2. I want to read this one so badly! I almost bought it the other day but I contained myself and decided to wait and see if I got it for Christmas!

  3. I really want this. I am trying to resist until Christmas because I will have gift cards...

  4. Andi - I love that my job description includes 'literary enabler' ;)

    Lola & Kailana - it's hard to wait, but it would make an EXCELLENT Christmas gift, especially for someone who has read it and really loved it...just saying... ;)

  5. I have duly added this to my amazon wishlist. I love books about the 1920s and this sounds like fun. I love books that are also illustrated. Have you see the book, 13, rue Therese? It has a similar idea though I think there is more text than illustrations--I saw it in the library but haven't had a chance to read it. I think the author was inspired by an actual box of ephemera that she found--very cool.

  6. Danielle - this was fun to read. I haven't seen 13, rue Therese but it sounds great! Will definitely look into it, thanks!


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