“The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” by E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart is known for her feminist writing, and Frankie does not disappoint as a heroine who challenges conventions on how women are expected to behave. How? Frankie takes on the old boys club in her boarding school, directing a male secret society thorough a series of pranks with a political agenda. Only problem: the boys don’t know that she is the mastermind.

The dialogue between Frankie and her boyfriend Matthew is excellent. In fact, all dialogue in this book really shines. It’s like you really hear the characters speaking in the room with you.

I grew up reading PG Wodehouse – slightly stained, yellowed copies that smelled of vanilla and glue – purchased from secondhand bookstores. My favourite was “Leave it to Psmith” where a particular fire alarm prank at a boarding school had me in stitches every time I read it.

I’m not sure how popular PG Wodehouse is with the younger crowd. It certainly wasn’t popular when I was reading it. But even if you don’t get the PG Wodehouse illusions and english boys boarding school traditions, it is not necessary to enjoy “The Disreputable History…” In fact, I was not in stitches with the “The Disreputable History…” as it is more of a social commentary.

The novel asks elite education systems if they include all religions, all cultural practices and women as well as men. It asks why we’re still holding onto a male dominated view of education? Why women can’t be devious, intelligent prankers, as well as men?

And honestly, I’m not sure exactly how important this fight is since the setting, again, was in an elite boarding school. Frankie knows that her future opportunities are pretty much guaranteed whether she runs the secret society or not. And yet… even though Frankie is incredibly privileged, “The Disreputable History…” suggests that there are still inequalities even among society’s upper crust. Will Frankie make it to the top of the world? Or will some men’s club keep her out?

Does this matter? Or is this extreme privilege in society a problem onto itself?