Publisher's Weekly every week. They just aren't. They're watching the Today Show, reading People magazine, and trolling around on Entertainment Weekly's web site. That's how they hear about books - and that's how I heard about The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt - by reading Oprah's (::shudder::) magazine.
Once I tweeted (yeah, I did) the publisher to confirm that Caroline Preston's scrapbook-style novel didn't have any dreaded pull out ephemera (no little letters tucked in envelopes for example), I happily forked over library funds to buy several copies. Because, you know, our customers read Oprah. It generated a modest waiting list, and when I noticed a copy sitting on the New Books shelves before I left work for the holiday weekend, I thought "What the heck?" Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the book I zipped through in a couple of hours on Christmas Eve.
The best way I can describe this novel is that it's a picture book for grown-ups. Or better yet, like going to a cocktail party and poking around in your host's medicine cabinet. We meet Frances "Frankie" Pratt when she graduates high school in 1920. She's a young lady with big dreams stuck in a tiny New England town. Over the course of reading her scrapbook, we follow her from Connecticut, to Vassar, to New York City, to Paris, back to Connecticut. It's a bit like uncovering an old photo album while playing in Grandma's attic and discovering the old lady had a really cool life before shackling herself to Grandpa.
It is a charming little book, with a wonderful "hook" and a nice attention to historical detail. It also makes me weep bitter, copious tears that this era tends to be flat-out ignored in romance genre circles (yeah, yeah World War I and the Great Depression are major downers, but it's such an interesting time for women!). That being said, readers shouldn't go into this book expecting serious amounts of depth. It's a story told in scrapbook form, so we're not talking oodles of text here. We also really only get Frankie's point of view, so if you're a reader not wild about first-person? This one isn't likely to change your mind.
But it is an enjoyable little read that has a lot to recommend it to the right person. I can totally see scrapbooking crafty-types going ga-ga over this. Also, if you're a bit of a social history nut, like I am, this is a real treasure trove. I suspect some romance readers will find Frankie's romantic entanglements less than fulfilling, but I found them remarkably refreshing in a "true to life" sort of way. There are boys, then men, and all of this leads to Frankie being the woman she is by the final chapter.
Like I said, it's a bit like finding out that Grandma was pretty kick ass before she settled down, had babies, and baked cookies for the grandkids. It is what it is - that is to say somewhat of a novelty. But it's a charming, breathtaking novelty that I didn't want to put down.
Final Grade = B+