For her graduation from high school in 1920, Frankie Pratt receives a scrapbook and her father’s old Corona typewriter. Despite Frankie’s dreams of becoming a writer, she must forgo a college scholarship to help her widowed mother. But when a mysterious Captain James sweeps her off her feet, her mother finds a way to protect Frankie from the less-than-noble intentions of her unsuitable beau.
Through a kaleidoscopic array of vintage postcards, letters, magazine ads, ticket stubs, catalog pages, fabric swatches, candy wrappers, fashion spreads, menus, and more, we meet and follow Frankie on her journey in search of success and love. Once at Vassar, Frankie crosses paths with intellectuals and writers, among them “Vincent” (alumna Edna St. Vincent Millay), who encourages Frankie to move to Greenwich Village and pursue her writing. When heartbreak finds her in New York, she sets off for Paris aboard the S.S. Mauritania, where she keeps company with two exiled Russian princes and a “spinster adventuress” who is paying her way across the Atlantic with her unused trousseau. In Paris, Frankie takes a garret apartment above Shakespeare & Company, the hub of expat life, only to have a certain ne’er-do-well captain from her past reappear. But when a family crisis compels Frankie to return to her small New England hometown, she finds exactly what she had been looking for all along.
Author of the New York Times Notable Book Jackie by Josie, Caroline Preston pulls from her extraordinary collection of vintage ephemera to create the first-ever scrapbook novel, transporting us back to the vibrant, burgeoning bohemian culture of the 1920s and introducing us to an unforgettable heroine, the spirited, ambitious, and lovely Frankie Pratt.
The origin story behind this graphic novel cum scrapbook, the first illustrated work by Jackie by Josie novelist Preston, might be more interesting than the by-the-numbers tale of flappers and expatriates inside. Preston, once an archivist at Harvard's Houghton Library, collected more than 600 pieces of original 1920s materiel from antique stores and eBay sellers Sears catalogues, amusement park tickets, commemorative badges, even a box of seasickness pills. In handsome, full-color pages, the memorabilia tell the story of Frankie, an aspiring writer who leaves her poor New England family to travel to Vassar, then to New York, then to Paris, where she becomes tangled in a romance with an older publisher with ties to her past. Frankie's Zelig-like ubiquity of course she dates a man who works for the New Yorker at its launch, and of course in Paris she winds up editing James Joyce makes for a nifty armchair tour of postwar literary culture, but the love stories at the book's center remain unsurprising and unmoving. In the end, this "novel in pictures" is best appreciated for its fetishistic attention to period detail; even the captions were typed on a vintage 1915 Corona portable typewriter.