Of course, I thought I knew about Frank Lloyd Wright. I am familiar with his work – his fantastic, cutting-edge structures, from the clean-lined homes with stained glass windows, beautiful pieces of mission-style furniture and amazing buildings like the Guggenheim in New York City. But I had no idea about his personal life whatsoever.
In Loving Frank, Nancy Horan examines the life of the architectural genius from the point of view of his mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who abandons her husband and children to pursue of life of intellectualism, art and love with Frank Lloyd Wright.
I was very impressed with this first novel by Nancy Horan. Growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, she knew of the Wright legend and thus began the idea for her book. Her research was impressive and her writing style equally so. She obviously spent a lot of time learning the subject of art, architecture and design, and the excitement Wright must have felt in creating shone through the novel’s pages.
I have to admit it really got under my skin. To have the story told from Mamah Cheney’s point of view, you hear her arguments for the choices she has made. Of course, this is supposition on Horan’s part, but it is educated supposition. I, like the general public at the time, did not approve of her choices and it made me a little uncomfortable with the style of writing that invited a relationship with her. On the other hand, because she was cast out from society because of her illicit relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright, it made me question how I would treat her myself.
I was equally amazed at the eccentricities of Wright and the personal history of the couple and their respective families. I am stunned that I had heard nothing of this before.
Finally, I couldn’t help but see a similarity between Wright’s life and the story behind Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. It made me wonder if she got the idea for her book from Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius and the public’s backlash against his way of life.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2007