Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Loving Frank

"...this noble woman had a soul that belongerd to her alone -- that valued womanhood above wifehood or motherhood. A woman with a capacity for love and life made really by a...finer courage..." ~from Loving Frank

I recently read Loving Frank, a historical novel based on the life of Mamah Cheney Borthwick, a wife and mother who became Frank Lloyd Wright's mistress from 1907-1914. Anyone else read it? I originally picked it up for a couple of reasons: I knew a bit about Wright but didn't know he had this scandalous love affair; the book received rave reviews; and the book was also billed as a great love story.

What did I think?

I did enjoy it, though not as much as I thought I would. In places it's a little slow. There's an awful lot about the details of their travels together, about his creations and his horrific business sense, and her own discovery of her self. Actually, that last element is the focus of the book, overall, and I did like that part of it. Though not too much is known about Mamah historically, the author does a nice job painting her as a woman torn between duty to family, spending her life with her true soul mate, and developing an identity and voice of her own.

At times it's hard to get beyond the fact that she virtually gave up her life with her young children to follow this man she loved around the world. She's an adultress, and some readers will probably struggle with understanding or sympathizing with her. But I did enjoy the way the author makes both characters come to life. You really get an insight into Frank Lloyd Wright the man, beyond the famous architect.

It's a dense novel but richly written. The ending is a bit of a surprise if you don't know what happened in real life -- and I didn't. But I admire the author for taking on such an interesting piece of history and making it come to life. I'd give the book 3.5 stars, but if you like historical novels/reading about true people in history, you'll probably enjoy Loving Frank.

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