‘My aunt called our two families the Mighty Franks. But, she said, you and I, Lovey, are a thing apart. The two of us have pulled our wagons up to a secret campsite. We know how lucky we are. We’re the most fortunate people in the world to have found each other, isn’t it so?’
Michael Frank’s upbringing was unusual to say the least. His aunt was his father’s sister and his uncle his mother’s brother. The two couples lived blocks apart in the hills of LA, with both grandmothers in an apartment together nearby.
Most unusual of all was his aunt, ‘Hankie’: a beauty with violet eyelids and leaves fastened in her hair, a woman who thought that conformity was death, a Hollywood screenwriter spinning seductive fantasies. With no children of her own, Hankie took a particular shine to Michael, taking him on Antiquing excursions, telling him about ‘the very last drop of her innermost self’, holding him in her orbit in unpredictable ways. This love complicated the delicate balance of the wider family and changed Michael’s life forever.
Reviews of The Mighty Franks
‘The glory of this book is its richly evoked world … Michael is an Isherwood camera … I doubt you’ll read a better memoir this year. The Mighty Franks is full of humour and brittle irony. In Aunt Hankie, Frank has created a great new nonfictional character: an indelible wonder of dark depths and hypnotic high style’ Guardian
‘A witty, moving account … beautifully written and timely ‘ TLS
‘Move Over, Royal Tenenbaums: Meet The Mighty Franks … probing and radiantly polished’ New York Times
‘An utterly magical book. Michael Frank inherits Truman Capote’s glorious ability to recreate the past in an act of exquisite, knowing retrieval. Set on the glamorous, conflicted fringes of 20th century Hollywood, Frank’s memoir is a glittering, happy-sad evocation of his elegant, tyrannical, stylish aunt and the rest of his extraordinary family. I hung on every word, spying through his child’s eyes. This is intense and lyrical prose: I never wanted it to stop.’ Philip Hoare
‘P.G. Wodehouse could not have invented Michael Frank’s aunt. An astonishing story of a relationship and a family that ends up the wrong side up and inside-out. Beautiful, strange and true.’ Ian Sansom
‘Entertainingly, and sometimes beautifully, told. Frank, as his aunt once told him, can write’ Observer
‘The Mighty Franks is very easy to love and very hard to put down.’ George Hodgman
‘To paraphrase Tolstoy, interesting families are unhappy in mysterious ways, and in this subtle memoir full of hard-won wisdom, Michael Frank gives us an indelible portrait of his own.’ Judith Thurman
‘Crackling with sorrow and wit, Michael Frank has written a gorgeous, moving and intensely compassionate memoir that will stay with me for a long, long time.’ Molly Antopol
‘Be careful when you start reading The Mighty Franks since you won’t be able to stop. This portrait of an extraordinary family is a work of art.’ Jean Strouse