Guest Post: Be Frank With Me By Julia Claiborne Johnson

Book Review

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Please welcome R.A. Kerr from Silver Screenings, a really cool blog about the golden age of film.

We love having guests here, especially when it is another blogger. Fresh voices are always nice and I love introducing new things to my readers. Thanks for visiting R.A. and for sharing this book. You are welcome to drop by any time.

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Be Frank With Me (Release Date: February 2, 2016)

Reclusive literary legend M.M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless “only-in-Hollywood” moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.

Review

This is not the book I expected.

At first glance, Be Frank With Me looks to be witty and observant (which it is), with lots of clever references to old Hollywood.

It’s a novel about the pressures of writing, unwanted fame and what makes a family.

I expected this to be a story of tidy endings, where the heroine finds the man of her dreams (nope) and the antagonist learns a valuable Life Lesson (double nope).

In Be Frank with Me, a New York publishing assistant named Alice is dispatched to Los Angeles to work with the legendary and reclusive writer, M.M. Banning. You’re familiar with the type of writer Banning is: Someone who produces an awe-inspiring first novel, then refuses to publish another book.

Alice’s job is to gently prod Banning into completing a second novel; however, the surly Banning is unwilling to share any information about the book-in-progress. Not only, that, Alice’s energies must be spent looking after Banning’s 10 year-old son – a precocious, too-smart-for-his-own-good kid named Frank.

Frank is a boy with an encyclopedic knowledge of old movies. He’s charming when he wants to be and can be surprisingly thoughtful. However! Frank needs a wide berth of Personal Space, and he gets upset if someone Touches His Stuff without permission. He is, in a word, exasperating.

As someone who loves old movies, I was enthralled with the stories from the classic Hollywood era. (Frank dresses up like Groucho Marx, for instance, or like a bookie from the musical Guys and Dolls.) But if old Hollywood isn’t your thing, these references don’t diminish the book. In fact, they add to Frank’s unusual, other-worldly aura.

Be Frank With Me makes you feel like you’re in L.A., which is a fabulous escape if you’re stuck in the middle of a cold winter. But this book is not fantasy; the story is grounded in real personalities who don’t always think through the consequences of their choices.

No, this is not at all the book I expected.

It is better.

Available on Amazon

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Silver Screenings

R.A. Kerr blogs about old movies at Silver Screenings. She is an avid reader and chocolate-eater.

 

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