Be Frank With Me
By Julia Claiborne Johnson
William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062413710, February 2016, 304pp.
The Short of It:
This book has one of the most charming characters I’ve had the privilege of “meeting” in a very long time.
The Rest of It:
Mimi Banning is a famous author. She wrote one book and since then, she’s had fans clamoring at the gate of her Bel Air mansion, hoping for a glimpse of the elusive author. But financially, things aren’t all that good. She’s forced to write another book but now she has a young son, Frank, who needs constant supervision. Mainly because he’s brilliant, can assume the persona of a 1930’s movie star at the drop of a hat, and has a knack for vanishing unless an eye is on him at all times.
Mr. Vargas, a close personal friend of Mimi’s hires Alice to be Mimi’s personal assistant and a nanny to Frank. With very little information to go on, he sends her off to Bel Air with instructions to keep tabs on what’s going on at the mansion.
Mimi has seriously reclusive tendencies so it’s a little surprising to Alice just how much she throws herself into her work and how removed she is from her son during the writing process. But this lack of inclusion is what allows Alice to realize the type of kid Frank is. He’s like a 50 year-old man trapped in a little boy’s body. He’s charming, witty, funny but also exhausting. When overwhelmed by anything, he simple falls to the ground and has to be dealt with. He has no friends and his high brow manner of dress (top hat and all) makes him a target on the playground.
In a lot of ways this is a delightful read. Frank is an endearing character and there were times when I felt the same way about Alice. She’s given this tough task and seems to power through with little or no trouble. One thing that stuck out, is that the supporting characters didn’t grow during the course of the story. A lot more could have been done with Mimi and the close friends she chooses to have around her, like Xander, the sometimes handy man. He had this great back story but the author just scratched the surface with him and he didn’t seem any different at the end of the story than at the beginning.
Another thing I noticed, is that at one point the story seemed too long but then when it ended, it seemed to end too soon, almost abruptly. I can’t say that this really hindered my enjoyment because it didn’t, but when I read that last line I was like, “Oh, I guess that’s the end.”
This year seems to be my “quirky family” year of reading. Everything I am drawn to in the way of books has everything to do with quirky, non-traditional families. I kind of like it and this book fits right into that. Overall, it was an enjoyable read. I think the author could have gone a bit deeper with it but I discovered a new author and I’d absolutely read her work again.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.