One of my book clubs recently chose “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan as its January selection. This is the story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s rather public affair with Martha “Mamah” Cheney shortly after the turn of the century. Horan has done extensive research in order to capture Mamah (pronounced “May-mah”) as her protagonist. The book covers their relationship from their first meeting (when Wright was employed to build a house for Mamah and her then husband, Edwin) to its tragic end.
To be honest, this was not a book that I would have chosen on my own to read. I doubted that 362 pages about two married people having an affair – no matter how well-known they were – could hold my attention or interest. However, this book was oddly fascinating. Mamah is portrayed as an intelligent, independent, unique woman, while Frank Lloyd Wright is portrayed as a self-centered, driven genius. I felt that I had come to know these people, and to be honest, I did not like them. Frank’s selfishness and lack of dealing with the realities of life made me irritated with him – though I recognize that genius often comes at such a price. He had no qualms about trying to leave his wife and the six children he had by her. Mamah, on the other hand, was portrayed as sympathetic and as the proverbial butterfly trapped in a bell jar. I would have had more sympathy for her, but I personally could not move past the fact that she chose to desert her two very young children (and a very normal, though somewhat boring, husband) in order to live openly with Wright. She is portrayed as aching for her children, however, leaving them was by her choice, and she made that choice more than once. Furthermore, she left it to her maiden sister to raise them with her former husband.
As I became intrigued with this story, I made the very big mistake of googling these characters to get more real information on them. What a mistake!! I discovered the ending of this tale before I reached it, and let me warn you – it is not pleasant. In fact, I finished this book at 10:00 pm one night and had trouble sleeping. The ending is not only tragic, but haunting and disturbing – made all the more terrible by the fact that it is true.
I would recommend this book to those who have an interest in FLW, in historical fiction with real characters, and/or those who like a love story. It is well-written and well-researched, and I found that it reads easily. I can’t say I loved it as it was too disturbing, but I can appreciate its merits, so I’m giving it: 4 Stars. I purchased my copy from Amazon.
Coming Soon: a review of “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield