Sunday, February 08, 2009

Book 13: Loving Frank

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Despite the fact that I'm from Illinois, I know little to nothing about Frank Lloyd Wright. I've even been to a house he designed (oddly enough, I described that in my first ever blog post), but outside of famous architect, I couldn't have said much about him.

Loving Frank, while narrated in the third person, is told from the perspective of Mamah Borthwick Cheney. An early feminist and intellectual, Frank and Mamah become fascinated with each other after Edwin Cheney hires Wright to design and build his home. Eventually they begin an affair, and their actions set the gossip world on the fire as they travel to Europe together and leave their families for each other.

Not only does the novel detail Mamah's choice of love over society, but it documents her struggle to become an independent woman. Obviously very intelligent, Mamah still often finds it too easy to lose herself in Frank's strong personality and always questions her actions. In order to also have a life of her own, she translates works for Swedish feminist Ellen Key, someone whose work greatly inspired her. In the afterword, Horan says that not much of Mamah's original work or personal correspondence survives, so the letters and journal entries that are interspersed throughout the novel are also fiction with one exception. The novel features a deep look at a fascinating woman that in some ways was ahead of her times. It also offer glimpses into Wright, and shows some of his flaws alongside his genius. I was truly shocked by the ending, though Wright's fans may know what awaits them at the end, which will surely give them a slightly different perspective on things as they read the novel.

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