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Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

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Vanessa
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Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Post by Vanessa » Mon February 16th, 2009, 3:10 pm

Synopsis

"I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current."

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America's greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney's profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan's Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah's is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel's stunning conclusion.

Elegantly written and remarkably rich in detail, Loving Frank is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman, a national icon, and their timeless love story
.

My Thoughts

I was quite disappointed by this book.

It's an easy read, although I thought the style of writing was disjointed. I found myself having to check back because I thought I had missed something! It is well researched and the author has used her imagination very well to fill in the gaps, letter writing, etc. However, the story just did not flow for me unfortunately.

I was expecting a love story, but I did not feel there was any chemistry between the two main characters. I thought the book was more about the female character of Mamah Cheney trying to find herself and I found her quite selfish. I thought she was very self-absorbed and could not understand how she could leave her two children.

The ending was very shocking - I was not expecting it as I knew nothing about this couple or their lives. It was interesting up to a point but not a book I would rave about.

Rating: 3/5
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

Ash
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Post by Ash » Tue February 17th, 2009, 12:31 am

[quote=""Vanessa""]I was expecting a love story, but I did not feel there was any chemistry between the two main characters. I thought the book was more about the female character of Mamah Cheney trying to find herself and I found her quite selfish. I thought she was very self-absorbed and could not understand how she could leave her two children.
[/quote]

I totally agree. I felt that there was little chemistry between the characters, and I just didn't get how this educated and obviously articulate woman would have spent 4 minutes let alone 4 years plus with a man who was as egositical and self centered as FLW. The sex had to be really really good - but that wasn't really even that much part of the book. What indeed was the attraction? Did she just want an escape from the confines of her time and place (any port in a storm and all that)? Did he just want a companion to give her undying support to him no matter what he did? That isn't really explained or even suggested.

I wanted much more fleshed out characters, adults who seemed to understand the consequences of their actions (I couldn't believe she was so upset by the news reports. Duh, did she really think she'd be applauded?). She pined so for her children, but obviously there was something about FLW that kept her from going back to them. The author never shows us what that something is. I don't think she went off with him at first as a way to find herself. But when she latched on to the feminist writers, she found a hook, a way to defend her actions: free will for everyone. It did allow her to be as self absorbed as she wanted to be. What she forgot however is that such actions have reactions.

One thing the book did do was to bring out the difference in norms of expected behavior: She was raked over the coals for leaving her husband and children; he of course was just a womanizer and was able to do business pretty much normally. I thought his letter to the newspaper after she died was so perfect, and yet I didn't get to know the person who wrote that letter in the story.

The ending indeed was a shock. Usually there is some warning, some hint as to what might be coming, something about a tragic incident. But that just came out of nowhere. If it wasn't actually a true incident, it would have been a wall banger.

It is an easy read, and I'd give it a 2/5. I enjoyed reading up to the first 1/3 or so. After that its a slog. And then, wham.

FLW is big in our state, with Talisin West and Grady Gammage Auditorium, but I never was much interested in the man. There is a new TC Boyle book tho that looks like it will be head over heals better than this one: The Women, about the four women in the life of FLW. The narrator is a young Japanese architect, a part of FLW's fellowship of students. Should be very interesting.
Last edited by Ash on Tue February 17th, 2009, 12:34 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4270
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Tue February 17th, 2009, 7:45 pm

Perhaps they suited each other seeing as they both fairly self-centred! He went on to marry someone else, didn't he? So what became of Catherine? I did try to find some info on the internet, but there wasn't that much, especially about Mamah, just one photo. It all seemed very pointless.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Sheramy
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Post by Sheramy » Sat March 14th, 2009, 3:29 pm

I read Loving Frank when it first came out in hardcover, so that was a while ago, but I remember really enjoying the read. I agree that it was hard to 'get to know' FLW in the book ... but I rather think that was the point. Part of the intrigue for the reader is wondering "WHY is she with this man?" I felt as if Horan was deliberately keeping an element of mystery around FLW, which does mesh well with the man himself. He created such a persona around himself that finding 'the real man' is probably very tricky.

I saw the new novel about FLW in the bookstore and it looks good, but I'm probably going to wait for the pb.
Sunflowers: A Novel of Vincent van Gogh, forthcoming from Avon-A, 13 October 2009
My blog: http://vangoghschair.blogspot.com
My website: http://www.sheramybundrick.com
For it is truly the discovery of a new hemisphere in a person's life when he falls seriously in love. -Vincent van Gogh

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