I don’t remember how I came across this title. It was probably a Goodreads ‘recommended books’ related to another 20s novel I read. I’m so glad I found it, though! This book was a real treat. I’ve never read a graphic novel before but I have to imagine it would be something like this. Oddly, my first thought when I picked this book up off the shelves was how heavy it was! It only took a quick flip through to realize that’s because the pages were high-quality photo pages and there was ink soaked into every inch of those pages to cover them in amazing images. I was ready to devour this book.
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston
Summary from Goodreads:
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is a visually stunning, totally unique, full-color novel in the form of a scrapbook, set in the burgeoning bohemian culture of the 1920s and featuring an endearing, unforgettable heroine. Caroline Preston, author of the New York Times Notable Book Jackie by Josie, uses a kaleidoscopic array of vintage memorabilia—postcards, letters, magazine ads, ticket stubs, catalog pages, fabric swatches, candy wrappers, fashion spreads, menus and more—to tell the tale of spirited and ambitious Frankie’s remarkable odyssey from Vassar to Greenwich Village to Paris, in a manner that will delight crafters, historical fiction fans, and anyone who loves a good coming-of-age story ingeniously told.
This book was too much fun. I devoured it. I read in the acknowledgments that the author got a lot of the images off of eBay. It’s obvious she spent a lot of time getting the images together and I loved that. It also seemed really convenient that the character descriptions and clothing matched the images exactly. I’m guessing a lot of that was Preston being inspired by the images but I found it a bit hard to believe that Frankie’s beaus always looked like magazine models. I could overlook this, though. The story was fun and encompassed so much of life in the 20s it was a little convenient, but it was really perfect and a great way to visually explore the time period.
The characters were a little bland because the dialogue and narration were reduced to allow the images to tell the story. Some of the side characters took on stronger personalities than Frankie herself. Her roommate at Vassar struck me as a memorable personality but now I can’t remember her name, haha. I wasn’t expecting strong characterization, though, so this didn’t bother me. The images were beautiful and told a great story.
I both loved and hated Jamie. Mostly hated, but there was something redeeming about him in my mind. He stuck with me the most, either way. He obviously did things with Frankie he shouldn’t have when they first met. I think he paid the price for what he did by ending up alone in Paris. He gave her a job when she needed one, obviously. I also think he helped her grow up. She was very innocent at the beginning of the book and she started to be her own woman in college, but it was really when she ran away to Paris that she had to be herself and she was scared to do that. After her second run-in with Jamie, she was much more confident and able to go after what she wanted. So yes, he was a terrible person, but he was very important to her.
A lot of the things Frankie did were things I would have liked to do but never dared. I would never run off to Paris with no plan and hope to be a writer. I would ignore my fun but reckless roommate at school. She was brave in ways I am not and I wanted to be her sometimes, but I didn’t quite relate to her. Her friendships in high school were the closest to my life and those seemed to be over by page 15.
The images in this book were amazing. I wanted to rip pages out and put them above my computer for inspiration while I write my 1920s themed novel. I’m so impressed that Preston spent the time to find them all and that she wove them into the story so well. I’m sure what she could find dictated the plot slightly, but it didn’t feel that way. I enjoyed being swept up into a time period so visually.
If anything, the worst thing about this book was that I read it so fast. I finished it in three days and could have finished it in a single sitting if I wanted to. Maybe more text, pages without images, would have given it a deeper plot. Or maybe something a bit longer. I would have liked a little more depth with the characters, though. Though it would have been impossible to make them authentic, photographs would have been great. Maybe doctoring some could have worked.
Frankie is running away from her past, but it’s only when she comes home that she’s happy. She may have bobbed her hair and tried to be a Lost Generation writer, but it’s the farm and her mother where she finds happiness. I think too often people run away or hide from their lives like Frankie tries to do. But in the end, she has to remember who she is and where she comes from before she can be happy. I think it was an appropriate ending and one you don’t see a lot in books.
Writer’s Takeaway: As a writer, I feel like I have to avoid images because they are for children’s books. It was nice to see a book for YA and adult audiences with pictures used so liberally and effectively. I know that my book will not be able to publish images, but it’s made me think about collecting pictures to remind me of the people in my book and the time period they were living in. I have one picture now that I keep above my computer but I’m thinking of collecting some more.
This book was fun yet short and very different from other books I have read. A full Five out of Five stars.
Until next time, write on.
Review | The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures, Caroline Preston | Literary Treats
Review: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston | Diary of an Eccentric
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt | alibrarymama