Is scrap-booking the new fiction?
If so, author Caroline Preston has taken this new form of novel writing and made it into an innovative storytelling telling novel in her new book The War Bride’s Scrapbook: A Novel in Pictures.
This isn’t Preston’s first incursion into a scrapbook-turned-novel (or vice-versa). Her first work, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, featured a coming-of-age story set in the 1920s. Preston digs from her own personal collection of vintage mementos to tell the stories in both her novels, which makes the end result seem like we’re looking into someone’s intimate memories of the past.
In The War Bride’s Scrapbook, it’s the start of World War II and Lila Jerome feels compelled to do her part in supporting the war bond effort at home. Suffocated by her parents and sister, Lila moves out into an apartment of her own with a roommate. Later, when Lila is left with the apartment to herself, she finds a new border in Perry Weld, an Army engineer about to leave for the European front.
Lila and Perry become smitten with each other, and decide on a whim, to elope knowing that it may be years before they see each other again. It’s not clear if Perry and Lila marry firstly so they can have sex without the judgement of their family, friends, and society since Perry refuses to be with her before they’re married.
They both come to find out through their mutual letters, that they don’t really know much about each other. Lila moves away to live with Perry’s parents while he’s stationed in Europe, and she then understands there are many things her husband never told her about his family or himself. But in time, their love grows and changes even with absence and with the uncertainty of knowing when they’ll be reunited.
The book details their lives together and then apart through letters, ticket stubs, flyers, department store receipts, pictures of newspaper and magazine ads, clippings, and book covers. The plot is detailed in letters, postcards and at times, side-notes on the margin. It’s at first a bit strange to read a book in this way, but nothing that can be described as daunting or tiresome. The pictures compliment Lila and Perry’s story in just the right manner to not be distracting or overwhelming. Their relationship changes and adjusts to the hardships of war and from knowing more about each other from a distance.
Both Lila and Perry change also, not just their relationship. She becomes more driven towards realizing her ambitions and finding a niche for her aspirations within the the troubling times of war. For his part, Perry learns that nothing about war is predictable and that even his work as an engineer carries much more dire risks than he first believed. Through telegrams and messages their maturity and transformation become evident, with the only remaining question being if their marriage will survive after they’ve both changed so much.
A powerful story of love and changes in times of war,The War Bride’s Scrapbook is an enthralling and entertaining read, a remembrance of a world at war told in keepsakes and words.