Posted by: istop4books | April 26, 2009

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Loving Frank: A Novel Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan

My review

 

 


I recommended this book to our book club and, finally!, got a good one. It’s hard to recommend books for club when I haven’t read them. I go by other peoples’ recommendations, by amazon recommendations or just by the fact that I’ve already read the author. Well, it doesn’t always work. But this time it did. And this book is a winner.

It’s the story of a 10 year period in the lives of Frank Lloyd Wright and the woman who became his mistress, Mamah B. Cheney. mamahThe affair started in the early years of the 20th century, women in the United States still did not have the vote and social mores were set in stone. This affair wreaked havoc on all the lives it touched, and influenced the work of the famous architect. The period is exquisitely described and the two main characters brought to life in a very humane way.

The main theme running through the book was, of course, the issue of a woman leaving her home, her young children and a life envied by most,  to follow a man who also left his wife and family.   Should a woman put her personal happiness ahead of the happiness of her children? Should she fulfill her life dreams at the expense of hardship and alienation of her children?  Reading the Chicago Tribune and many other serious newspapers, you woudl think not.  Both Frank and Mamah became pariahs, outcasts, scorned by many.  The writer captures very well the tremendous ambivalent feelings they both felt.  They say there are no decisions without some regret – and there seemed to be plenty to go around.  Mamah became the woman who tried to balance children, home, husband, work on one side, and on the other and weighing heavily on her, her own truth and honesty.

 

 

 

The house built for Edwin and Mamah Cheney in Oak Park, ca 1905

The house built for Edwin and Mamah Cheney in Oak Park, ca 1905

 

 

My only quip with the book is that I wish it had illustrations of the homes, churches and gardens that are mentioned. I realize that it would be unusual in a novel, but this novel is unusual itself.

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