The War Bride’s Scrapbook: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston [in Booklist]
Caroline Preston collaged combinations of vintage photos, drawings, clippings, advertisements, and all manner of 1920s tidbits in The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (2011), onto which she overlaid the text of her titular heroine’s peripatetic adventures-into-adulthood. In her sophomore scrapbook presentation, Preston displays the left-behind experiences of a 1940s war bride, and the result is even more spectacular.
When Lila Jerome graduated magna cum laude from Sweet Briar with notable interest (and talent) in architecture, she disappointed her mother by coming home to Charlottesville, Virginia, without the expected “high-society girlfriends or fiancé.” Then the December 1941 declaration of war changed everything.
Lila sells bonds and volunteers. By November 1943, she’s Mrs. Perry Weld, marrying an enlisted man she’s known for three weeks. Their almost two-year separation enables Lila’s independence, while encouraging intimacy with the husband she’s getting to know through long-distance correspondence; their challenges begin with reunion.
Preston deftly explores changing gender and societal expectations, pre-diagnosis PTSD, the morality of the atomic bomb, even the racism of Japanese American imprisonment. The inclusion of three post-scrapbook entries at book’s end is especially resonating. Page-by-multilayered-page, Preston turns what could have been a pedestrian wartime romance into an exceptional reading experience.