Monday, 9 March 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart

Summary -
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.
This is the story of how she got that way.

Review - I have heard about this book for months and I should have known the hype would ruin it for me. That being said, I can't know for sure that I wouldn't feel the same about it had I read it with no knowledge. Simply put, I think it is a really well written novel with some great ideas but it really didn't gel for me. It wasn't to my taste, whereas it is for many people.

My problem - the third person narrative that floated in the present and future tense. It kept me too removed from the protagonist, which in turn didn't allow me to care all that much about her. (If I don't connect with the protagonist, I don't connect with the book.) It seemed a little too pretentious at times, dithering at others. Too much introspection and not enough detail into Frankie's machinations. The narration just plain annoyed me as it kept me at a distance and elements like the positive negatives, while cute were really clunky. It just seemed like in some areas of the book that the author was trying too hard. For instance, there are segments where Frankie goes on about Jeremy Bentham and the concept of panopticon - that felt like self-aggrandising to the worst degree.

I loved Lockhart's social commentary about the Old Boys Club mentality - so prolific in these arcane establishments. I was in one for four years and I think she has done a marvellous job as depicting the complete obliviousness and sometimes deliberateness there is in keeping females at bay. I like the themes of feminisism and proactiveness but it was undone for me by Frankie's belief that Matthew was the guy for her. I would have preferred that her motivations were in larger part the sexism issues than the Matthew's lying and exlcusion of her as was depicted in the novel. The scene between Matthew and Frankie in the sick bay didn't sit well with me. I didn't like Frankie in that scene, the respect that I had built for her was pretty much decimated. Don't get me wrong, I am being very critical but I did enjoy the book.

Lockhart's novel is a great, entertaining read and had it not been for the very specific, styled narrative I think I would have loved it. Regardless, I can appreciate the well crafted plot and the themes that are presented within it's pages.

Published: 2008
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Origin: USA

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E. Lockhart's Website


Steph Su said...

Yes, me too. I liked the concept of the book (and the pranks!) but never really felt like I connected with the characters and their situations. Which is why I'm always a bit surprised that this one got so many awards.

Steph said...

Whereas I loved the narration but just didn't connect with these characters. You beat me to it - I was totally gonna post a review kinda similar in a couple of days :P


Adele said...

Steph Su - you just summarised my feelings completely.

Steph - Cannot wait to read it!

H said...

The hype for a book quite often ruins it for me and I've heard a lot of hype for the Disreputable History, so thanks for the warning.

Janssen said...

I really loved this book, but I can see why it doesn't work for everyone. It's not a book I recommend to absolutely everyone (my sister read it, when I brought it home at Christmas, and I think she was kind of like "hmm. . .okay.").

Anonymous said...

It's funny, because I loved the stylized narration AND identified with the Frankie character, but my qualms (to the extent that I had them; I loved the book) had to do with some specifics of the feminism.

And I've also been planning to blog this very soon... we should make it a cross-blog conversation :)

Adele said...

Sounds like a great idea! I think the narration is a very person thing - you like it or you don't. I did appreciate that it was done well though :)

DM said...

I'm so glad I wasn't the only one that wasn't super crazy about the book. I had been reading all the hype and was excited when I finally had a chance to read it, but like you, it just didn't "gel" for me and I was disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I also went to a high school that, while much less economically privileged, had some of the same kind of confident, offbeat and nerdy culture that Frankie was trying to create around herself. So that helps with identifying with the character and voice.