The War Bride’s Scrapbook
As she did with The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, Caroline Preston has created a visual history of a woman who never existed but whose life is enlightening.
The War Bride’s Scrapbook portrays how Lila found herself married after knowing Perry only a few weeks.
The daughter of a status-seeking Virginia woman and an insurance salesman, Lila was too tall and plump for her mother’s taste. When war breaks out, she finds ways to be useful, culminating in renting a room to a serviceman. He’s a aspiring architect (something they have in common, although as a woman, Lila wasn’t allowed to study it) becoming a combat engineer.
They had five days together as a wedded couple, before he’s sent to Europe in 1943. Once he’s gone, she moves in with his parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts, only to find they don’t get along well and the drafty old family home is a horror to maintain under trying circumstances.
The text is portrayed as though type-written and cut out on slips of paper, pasted on top of various snipped images to build the scrapbook veneer. Much of the novel consists of letters back and forth, with Lila describing home life during wartime.
The pages can be overwhelming, at times, with so much visual clutter, but my favorite bits are the everyday items, particularly the recipes. Preston is also straightforward about a woman wanting sex, as Lila scares off her first beau by enjoying a kiss too much.
The best section is the last, covering how they interact after he returns, given how much war has changed him. And the real meat comes in the last eight pages, a kind of epilogue by Lila’s children discovering these memories. She became a leading woman in American architecture, but what her kids think of her motivations is very different from why she did what she did. I’d almost rather have read that book, instead of having just these hints tacked on at the end. (The publisher provided a review copy.)