The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

Bits of material, a faded pressed rose, ticket stubs – memorabilia that instantly trigger an emotion.  Perhaps you have a scrapbook full of old pieces of your life that you reopen now and then.

In The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, Caroline Preston reveals her heroine’s life and the nineteen twenties era she lived through – with postcards, snips of old catalog ads, graduation announcements, candy wrappers, and more.

Who says you can’t tell a story without words?  Frankie’s high school graduation gifts are a scrapbook and her dead father’s Smith Corona typewriter; her dream is to become a writer.  As she grows from  “smartest girl in her class” to editor in a Paris magazine, Preston uses pictures – scraps actually – with captions to tell her story:

  • a seductive love affair with an older man that leads to a scholarship at Vassar,
  • her post-college apartment in Greenwich Village from the recommendation of Edna St. Vincent Millay (a fellow alum),
  • an escape from unrequited love that sends her to Paris and an apartment over the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore of James Joyce, and an old flame rekindled –
  • until finally returning home to nurse her mother from tuberculosis and finding true love “in her own back yard.”

As Preston reveals Frankie’s coming of age tale, she offers full-page collages that include fashion, furniture, vintage ads, photos and sketches from the twenties with a sprinkling of short dialogue at appropriate junctures.

A romantic tale full of history and nostalgia – a picture book for adults.

Look inside The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt at Preston’s website – here

When It’s OK Not to Know the Ending

After recently watching the spy thriller, The Debt, I wondered what happened to the characters’ lives next – after the story ended.  With George Clooney’s The Ides of March, the follow-up from the abrupt plot ending is predictable, given the intrigue of politics, but who knows.  Those loose ends reminded me of  books that end without neatly pulling in the loose threads: did the heroine die or walk off into the sunset?  did that rotten guy get his due?  will the boy/girl grow up to find the cure, change the universe, fall off a cliff?

Without a firm ending, the story goes on in my mind – changing outcomes and possibilities…

A few classic ambiguous endings that come to mind:

  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  • The Dead by James Joyce
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

Can you think of any?

Traveling to Eat

Someday I plan to travel on a book adventure tour.  You know the ones that follow Jane Austen through the English countryside,  Daphne du Maurier in Cornwall, James Joyce or Oscar Wilde in Dublin.  When I read Julia Child’s My Life in France, I wondered if I could find the restaurants she frequented when she wasn’t cooking.

Cookbooks don’t usual inspire my wanderlust, but Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola visited my hometown to do a cooking demonstration.  I ate their food, bought their cookbook, and took notes on their tips:

  • Without consulting a recipe, you should be able to whip out something that thrills families and guests (for me, that’s brownies)
  • Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t consider drinking (for me, that’s trying not to finish the wine as I cook)
  • Know the difference between “packaged in Italy” and “product of Italy” – olive oil packaged in Italy can have olives from anywhere (read the label)
  • Be the best you can, no matter what you’re cooking!

Now it’s my turn to find the real Boulevard in San Francisco.  I have a reservation tonight – my warm up meal to more eating on this trip: dim sum in Chinatown, and French Laundry in Yountsville.

I can already taste the squash blossoms.