The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt has a fairly straightforward story: Frankie Pratt starts a scrapbook in her senior year of high school, 1920. Her father died some years previously and her mother has been working as a nurse to support the family (in addition to a weedy garden and some scraggly chickens). Frankie gets a scholarship to Vassar, but believes the family cannot afford the contribution of $500 a year. A “contribution” from the mother of a Fast “Gentleman” who has compromised Frankie by the standards of the day1 allows her to attend anyway. Upon graduation, she sets off for Greenwitch Village, where in the search for employment she learns that the Automat is the refuge for all the other unemployed writers struggling to make ends meet alongside her in New York at the time; for the periodic investment of a nickel for coffee, oatmeal, egg salad sandwiches and slices of pie, she can spend the entire day there away from her one room coldwater ‘flat’ (bathroom down the hall). After another relationship ends poorly, she takes her savings and heads for Paris, where she discovers that occasional francs spent on coffees, croissants, bowls of french onion soup and the like will buy her a day in a street cafe away from her noisy one room cold water room above Shakespeare & Co, which, while it may be James Joyce’s publisher, is no luxury locale. What with one thing and another, she does make a go of things–she finds fulfillment in herself and her talents, and catches a glimpse of the roaring Twenties and the luminaries therein: she meets James Joyce, sees Lindbergh land and other excitements of the time. Upon finding out her mother is ill, she returns home to find that what she wanted was right there all along…although she is fortunate in that she did find herself in the process of searching for herself.

This is a genuine graphic novel, in which the “illustrations”2 are crucial to the plot; both the text and the pictures are necessary. This is also the original form of ‘scrapbooking’ in that it’s a collection of memorabilia, collected over the course of years and saved to remind the owner of the past, and as such provides an interesting description in and of itself of what it might have been like to live in the ’20s, in the United States and abroad.

1photographs only
2menus, tickets, a bill of fare from the Cunard line, postcards, photographs…


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