Be Frank with Me Paperback – 3 Aug 2017
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Sit back...and enjoy the show. * New York Times Book Review * Hilarious, poignant and full of unexpected gems. * Huffington Post * Delightful. You will laugh out loud. * Slate * Johnson's magnificently poignant, funny, and wholly original debut goes beyond page-turner status. Readers will race to the next sentence. And the next. Her charming, flawed, quietly courageous characters, each wonderfully different, demand a second reading while we impatiently await the author's second work. -- starred review * Library Journal * Readers will find themselves captivated. * People Magazine * Witty dialogue, irresistible characters, and a touch of mystery make this sweet debut about a quirky Hollywood family an enjoyable page-turner. * Booklist * Johnson's magnificently poignant, funny, and wholly original debut goes beyond page-turner status. Her charming, flawed, quietly courageous characters, each wonderfully different, demand a second reading. * Library Journal * The curious incident of where'd you go, Salinger. * Kirkus Reviews *
A funny, poignant and unforgettable novel about Frank - one of the most lovable and unusual characters you'll ever meetSee all Product description
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Still, it was an enjoyable read and I liked the characters and the way it flowed briskly and colourfully to the end.
The description of Frank, a nine-year old boy with “the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star” was enough enticement for me to dive into this book. Sadly, it was not enough of engage me for long....
Frank is Quirky, a boy with a Difference; he has an encyclopaedic mind, but where does he learn all this stuff when he doesn't go on the internet, or visit the local library? He is also a film buff, especially old films, reciting word perfect dialogue and plot to a bemused Alice. He's probably somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but this isn't confirmed or otherwise. No-one is allowed to touch Frank or Frank's Stuff. Mimi and Alice don't hit it off, but it's unclear why, and Alice's romantic interlude is out of place.
Unfortunately the novel never really develops into anything as it trundles along on a straight line. Yes, Frank is charming, amusing at times, but more often than not, precocious. Alice is just plain boring, and Mimi hides herself away most of the time; whenever she does appear is implausibly eccentric. Who is Frank's father? Do we really care, is it important? Does Mimi complete her novel? I don't know, neither do I care.
I really did want to like this book, unfortunately it's now on the Reject Stack never to be read again. The one thing I do like is the ambiguity of the title. I can't say I didn't like it, but for me it's only just okay, hence the rating.
Mimi Manning is a reclusive writer, with a massive bestseller under her belt but has now been given the task of writing another. Herself and Frank have been hidden behind the glass walls off their LA home for years and neither are keen to have a young woman move in with them as the new book is written. Alice struggles to learn their quirkiness and each day brings new challenges. It is not long before she sees Frank's compulsive behaviours for what they are... He is a child who lives in the past. He dresses like a dapper 1950s movie star, accessorizes each outfit with a button hole or cravat, has an array of catch phrases and knows the best places in LA to shop for his vast, eclectic wardrobe. He may not be great with human interaction, but he is utterly charming in his eccentricity.
Alice is charged with watching Frank as Mimi holes herself in her bedroom to write the next great novel. Left to their own devices, there are plenty of hit-and-miss moments between the two. Frank doesn't like to be touched and Alice learns this the hard way. He is also not keen on having his 'stuff' touched, which makes things a bit difficult. However, after some initial teething problems, the unlikely duo settle into a routine. Watching old black and white movies, driving through the streets of LA, attempting some day trips and flicking through some old photo albums. Frank unwraps his life, slowly, through vignettes and snatched details garnered from his mother. Alice relaxes into their quirky routine and their friendship blossoms. If only she could get Mimi to finish her manuscript...
Julia Claiborne Johnson has produced one of the most enchanting books I have ever read. I completely lost myself in Frank's world. He is delightfully weird and wonderful and entirely unforgettable. A child who has virtually no social skills, a brain full of random and insightful facts, the ability to name and re-count hundreds of classic movies and can wear a top hat on public transport. He lights up the pages of the novel and you know that each chapter will have his personality seeping into your soul. Mimi has a touch of the Harper Lee about her, with the One Great Novel being both her saviour and her downfall. Alice is far from Mary Poppins, but she has something special. She accepts Frank for who he is, sees what he needs and more importantly what he doesn't need. A child who is different should not be forced to fit a mould. Frank is special and Alice brings out the best in him. They have mini-adventures, fighting the system and learn to adapt as minimally as they can. Like Christopher Boone, in Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Frank is a boy who will imprint himself on the reader's mind. You will want to slow down the reading, so you won't have to say goodbye. This is a truly spectacular novel, written with simple prose and mighty articulation. Once you enter the gates of Frank's LA home, you will be hooked. There is magic within the pages of this book, moments that will stay with you long after you have reluctantly turned the back cover. Frank will linger for days, weeks, months. He is a monocle-wearing, slicked-haired, mini-gentleman who will charm even the hardest cynic. I miss him desperately.
This is my book of the year. I cannot recommend it enough. A must-read for anyone who loves life, or even for those who need to learn to love life again...
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