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The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures Hardcover – October 25, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Small-town girl Frankie wants to get out of New Hampshire, get an education, and become a writer. She becomes a class of 1924 student at Vassar, finds a job in New York, publishes a short story in Collier’s, and then makes her way to Paris. There she re-meets her college roommate’s interesting brother as well as a ne’er-do-well older man from her past. Frankie goes back home, however, when her widowed mother contracts tuberculosis, and there she finds true love. Preston’s story follows a predictable romantic arc, but the scrapbook format turns it into a welcome variant on the historical romance genre. True to the medium, only events that give Frankie pause are recorded, but Preston manages to include her heroine’s encounter with period anti-Semitism, homosexuality, and even fallen royalty without straining suspension of disbelief. The full-color scrapbook artifacts include typed captions, postcards, magazine ads, pressed flowers, tickets, letters, and annotated maps. A delight for readers of gentle historical romances, but also for crafters and those interested in the popular culture of the Roaring Twenties. --Francisca Goldsmith


“Impossible to crack open the book without wanting to devour it… a tale of the Roaring ‘20s illustrated in the dazzling language of trinkets and baubles… the kind of visual candy that coffee tables were designed to showcase.” (NPR.org)

“The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt” is a retro delight. Meticulously assembled and designed by the author from her own huge collection of memorabilia, it turns scrapbooking into a literary art form. Fans of the Roaring ’20s, Nick Bantock and modernism will all find something of value in Preston’s nostalgic ephemera.” (Washington Post)

“In her whimsical mash-up of historical fiction and scrapbooking, Caroline Preston uses vintage images and artifacts, paper ephemera and flapper-era souvenirs.... Apparently no junk shop or eBay seller was spared in Preston’s search for ways to bring her fictional heroine to life.” (O, The Oprah Magazine, Lead Review)

“In THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT, Caroline Preston, a former archivist, pastes vintage postcards, Jazz Age ephemera and typewritten snippets into a sweetly beguiling novel about a New England girl who trades Vassar College for Greenwich Village on the advice of Edna St. Vincent Millay.” (New York Times Magazine)

“Every coat button, baseball card, or gramophone record seems to conduct electricity…. As a reader, you are enchanted with Frankie Pratt’s life…because her life-so carefully constructed and so elegantly detailed-is not so different from our own.” (DoubleX)

“The epistolary novel is ages old, the Twitter novel à la mode, but...The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt—to my knowledge—is the first scrapbook novel....[A] charming and transporting story, a collage of vintage memorabilia...and other ephemera depicts the adventures of an aspiring flapper-era writer.” (VanityFair.com)

“An American (flapper) in Paris: Le Dôme café, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and l’amour all show up in scrapbook form in this novel.” (AARP.org)

“The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston is for those who love history, strong young women, and unusual story-telling.” (Examiner.com)

“Somehow, Preston manages to make this scene feel fresh--partly because [this] really is a scrapbook, each page composed of artifacts: advertisements, yearbook photos, ticket stubs, menus from the automat, and paper dolls modeling their finest… its vintage graphics and sweet, sincere storytelling make it a pure pleasure.” (Boston Globe)

“Literal, literary and lovely....Preston’s book is a visual journey unlike any other novel out there right now....Can be devoured in the course of a pot of tea on a cold day [but] pick [it] up the next day just to look at the images.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Selecting from her own collection of period mementos, Preston (Gatsby’s Girl, 2006, etc.) creates a literal scrapbook for a young New Hampshire woman coming of age in the 1920s. . . . .Lighter than lightweight but undeniably fun, largely because Preston is having so much fun herself.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“The vintage scrapbook is an effective vehicle for an entertaining coming-of-age story steeped in the pop culture of the Roaring Twenties. A highly enjoyable read well suited to historical romance fans and scrapbookers alike.” (Library Journal)

“THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT is like reading your favorite flapper great-aunt’s diary. It’s a ripping yarn of emancipated girlish adventure.” (Audrey Niffenegger)

“What an amazing, creative, funny, thoughtful dip into the life and times of the inimitable Frankie. I know I’ll come back to Preston’s wonderful creation time and again; for its color, warmth and whimsy. It’s a very, very clever novel.” (Jacqueline Winspear)

“[H]ave I just read/experienced/devoured the most delightful book ever published? ....There is magic here and genius. I marveled at every page: at first, just the astonishing collection of souvenirs and memorabilia and then the story—so wry and smart and literary and historically fascinating.” (Elinor Lipman)

“A literary bottle rocket—loaded with whimsy, pizzazz and heart. The illustrations are compelling and original, and the prose is perfection in the hands of Caroline Preston.... I heartily recommend.” (Adriana Trigiani)

“I’ve been enjoying Caroline Preston’s ingenious THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT, a novel made up entirely of vintage images. It’s nifty and fun—[and] the plot moves along, too!” (The Paris Review (blog))

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (November 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061966908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061966903
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

As a girl growing up in Lake Forest, Illinois, Caroline Preston used to pore through her grandmother's and mother's scrapbooks and started collecting antique scrapbooks when she was in high school. She majored in American Studies at Dartmouth College, and received a master's in American Civilization from Brown University. Inspired by her interest in manuscripts and ephemera, she worked as an archivist at the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Peabody/Essex Museum and Harvard's Houghton Library.

Preston is the author of three previous novels. "Jackie by Josie," a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, was drawn from her (brief) researching stint for a Jackie O. biography. "Gatsby's Girl" chronicles F. Scott Fitzgerald's first girlfriend who was the model for Daisy Buchanan. In "The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt," she has drawn from her own collection of vintage ephemera to create a novel in the unique form of a scrapbook.

Preston has been awarded a Massachusetts Artist Foundation Fellowship and has had residencies at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Ragdale, where she is a Distinguished Artist. She lives with her husband, the writer Christopher Tilghman, in Charlottesville, Virginia and has three mostly grown-up sons.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Preston's Frankie Pratt is really a new kind of reading experience, an almost visceral involvement in a coming-of-age story through the images and objects selected by the heroine for inclusion in her scrapbook. As I turned the pages, I recognized that I was becoming strangely immersed in Frankie's life and the world of the 20's. I loved it and admired the way Preston balanced text with images, always the one contributing to the other. The first time I read it very quickly, but it now sits on a table close at hand and I find myself picking it up again and again, noticing details I missed the first time. One page is almost entirely tickets for rides at Coney Island; just reading the names of the rides brought that world to life for me.

It would be a wonderful gift for almost anyone: a fan of the 20's, people who love to read of the trials and triumphs of youth, teenagers (even boys), scrapbookers, and perhaps most surprisingly, scholars of the period or of ephemera and material culture.
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Format: Hardcover
The 411:

In my opinion this was a sweet, fun, witty take on a novel. It was so much fun to scan all the photos on the page as I read the story of Frankie. Frankie is definitely a character you won't soon forget. When we meet her she is a fun loving, nice girl who us accepted at Vassar College but because of the price, she tells her mother she will not go instead she will work and save to become a nurse as her mother did. She knows her mother doesn't have the money to send her and doesn't want to burden her mom.

She takes a job as a nursemaid "babysitter" for an elderly woman but when the woman's grown son makes advances Frankie's mother does what any mother would do and gets them to write a check out to send Frankie to Vassar.

On a college scholarship, Frankie attends a prestigious school and matures. I loved the book and would love to hear more about Frankie. The photos of the memorabilia surrounding and enhancing the story forces me to remember how much I loved scrapbooking and I wish I had time to pull them out right now to look at them. Wonderful story and a great way to read. I always use the philosophy with my social media clients, "if there is a picture attached, they will read it! Quick read! Very well done! Can't wait for the next one
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By PJE on November 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Just finished reading Caroline Preston's wonderful new novel, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. The plot, set in the twenties, focuses on Frankie's love life-- and it's a page-turner! At the same time, the authentic scrapbook memorabilia gives the novel an historical dimension that engages the reader on many other levels. The stunning visual details add layer upon layer of texture to every page. Revel in the gorgeous graphics--they shine wisely on a period in history for which nostalgia is de rigueur.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This fascinating book exemplifies something vital about women's lives and how they come down to us through the centuries. Their "stories" are typically conveyed, not through heroic or historical narratives, but through everyday material culture -- things woven, sewn, embroidered, stitched, hooked, painted, quilted, and, yes, scrapped together. This is true of ordinary men, too -- but perhaps more so for women who, until the 20th century, weren't allowed a role in public life and were limited in their modes of self-expression to the "domestic arts."

The scrapbook form reminds me of quiltmaking, in which something organized and aesthetically satisfying is made out of the material of everyday life. Scrapbooks are the preserve of the memento, the souvenir, the bulletin, the concert ticket, the dried flower, the advertisement, the matchbook, the cheap trinket, the brief note. It is a rich domain, indeed, full of symbols and signs, and susceptible to all kinds of philosophizing on how we memorialize ourselves and compose our life stories.

Frankie's story is especially interesting because she is attempting to make a new kind of life -- to be a writer and have adventures and live by her own lights. The scrapbook reflects this work of self-creation, and her story is buoyant and engaging and very satisfying. My only caveat is that the ending the author imagines for her seems rather conventional, compared to what comes before. Frankie will marry a doctor and settle down and have a family while (presumably) continuing to write. Still, she has already broken out of the conventional storyline for a young woman of her time, and we can hope she will continue to forge a different path.

As a physical object, the book is sheer delight. For "vintage" collectors and flea-market fanatics and ephemera-lovers like myself, it is like a ticket to paradise. The Horn & Hardart spoon is my favorite item... or is it the Crackerjack charm bracelet? Oh, I can't decide...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What an original, clever idea! Ms. Preston uses photographs and other memorabilia not only to tell her story but also to evoke the feel of 1920's New York and Paris. Using very few words, she also shows what it was like to come of age in small-town New England and at Vassar.
I enjoyed it very much.
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Format: Hardcover
I hate to be the nay sayer here, but I was expecting to be delighted and enchanted by a novel told as a scrapbook, using vintage ephemera. I found the language to be middle school level at best, the narrative disjointed and a bit juvenile. It was fun to look at for a few pages until the story and the visuals lost me. I give three stars for very good intentions, but I hope the author can present something more sophisticated and with more depth in her next effort.
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