Friday, January 20, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

Readers who loved the Griffin and Sabine novels by Nick Bantock will adore this new novel by Caroline Preston. It is an illustrated novel, with no lengthy chapters to read. instead, the novel is told mostly in scrapbooked pictures and memorabilia from the 1920's. in fact, most of the novel's atmosphere and character development is forwarded not by the tidbits of typewritten text, but by the myriad of images that accompany each small quip or paragraph, resulting in a novel that is both quirky and visually beautiful. Beginning in rural 1920's America, we meet Frankie Pratt as she is finishing up high school with dreams of becoming a writer. Readers will know that the 1920's was an immensely creative time for writers in America - Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald - although Frankie seems more keen on reporting. So with scholarship to the prestigious Vassar College in hand, she embarks on her journey which eventually takes her all the way to Montparnasse in Paris. Along the way she looks for love and is both rewarded and disappointed (often in hilarious ways), takes up residence in the (in)famous Shakespeare & Co, and rubs shoulders with movers and shakers of the artistic world of the flapper generation. Although she gets the wrong end of the stick from time to time (she thinks  the fledgling magazine "The New Yorker" is doomed to fold within a month), Frankie takes her reader on a delightful romp through the best of the 1920's - it is the most delightful history lesson in the era's fashion, politics, arts and pop culture. Is the scrapbook theme a gimmick? No doubt. But it is precisely the type of book one cannot use on an e-book reader; with its images sideways, diagonal and upside down it is a book to be held and looked at at arm's length and its pages flipped back and forth quickly and at leisure to get the full effect of its gorgeous vintage ads, news clips and pictures. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is destined to become a favourite of 1920's era fiction and fellow scrap-bookers alike.

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on January 19th. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian. 

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