While I was away in paradise (aka the beautiful, rocky, cottagey place by the water), I read a bunch of great, great books. This is one of them. E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is pretty close to perfect. One of the many impressive things about this book is that it makes you think about a lot of interesting and complex issues, and yet it is pretty short. In fact, I’ll bet that once you’ve finished reading, you’ll realize that you could have spent a whole lot more time with Frankie, without any trouble at all. This story feels restrained, like you’re getting just a glimpse into a brief period in a character’s complicated life. I love it when a book seems like a snapshot of a whole lot more, rather than tries to explain and reveal each and every thing that ever happened in the main character’s past. Suggestive is so much better than encyclopedic.
If you go (or have gone) to a boarding school, especially one of those Important Ivy League-ish type feeder schools, then you must must read this book. If you’ve gone to a pompous sort of college or university where you wore academic gowns to dinner and drank port in the common room and witnessed much revelry in the quad, then you must must read this book. Frankie Landau-Banks goes to Alabaster Prep, a New England boarding school where many of the students are the offspring of Important Rich People, and the rest just happen to be smart enough to get there on their own. Frankie’s year at Alabaster is off to a different start, since she experienced a transformation into a new state of super-cuteness over the summer. She now has a smart, adorable, very rich boyfriend, and she’s getting used to hanging out with his smart, adorable, very rich pals. Soon Frankie hears whisperings of Alabaster’s not-so-secret all-male secret society: The Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, famous for masterminding goofy pranks. The Order has been around for fifty years or so, and Matthew (Frankie’s boyfriend) is a current member. It isn’t long before Frankie starts feeling that no matter how close she gets, she’ll never be a part of Matthew’s inner circle, and frankly (har har har), this starts to get to her. So Frankie takes action, infiltrating the Order and becoming its commander-in-chief, without a single Bassett member’s notice. From this position, she engineers a series of wild misadventures, surprising everyone around her, not to mention herself, in the process.
There’s a lot of depth to Frankie’s story, and I like it. Read this book and then talk about where rules come from and why we follow them, the deep roots of paternalism, the structures and ideals that control us and lots of other pithy stuff besides. E. Lockhart has written a great book, deserving of many readers and much acclaim. Visit her blog and website for all kinds of related links, interviews, and further info on all of her work.
Here are a few more glowing reviews of The Disreputable History: