Review: Loving Frank

Posted February 26, 2014 by Whitney in Review / 2 Comments

Review: Loving FrankLoving Frank
Author Nancy Horan
Publisher Ballantine Books
Publication Date August 7, 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Bought
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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.

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.

Even though Frank Wright and Mahma Cheney were well-developed characters I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in either one. Why would anyone pick up and leave their spouse and children? Both Frank and Mahma were extremely selfish and self-absorbed with each other, just not very likable.

The ending was fantastically spellbinding, Mahma fires Frank’s employee, Julian Carlton because she thought he just didn’t fit in; unfortunately he turned out to be a psycho path. On August 15, 1914 Taliesin, the home Frank Loyd Wright built for himself and his mistress, Mahma Cheney in Spring Green, Wisconsin. In a wild rage Julian set fire to Taliesin and attacked those trying to escape with an axe, this includes Mahma and her two children Martha and John. After reading the novel I got on the internet to research the Taliesin murders as I had never heard of them before and didn’t know anything about Frank Lloyd Wright to begin with and was astonished to find how historically correct the novel was.

Also, on a personal note, my favorite movie is All About Eve starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. After doing further research on the architect I found that Anne Baxter is his granddaughter; Anne’s mother, Elizabeth was Frank Loyd Wright’s daughter from his first marriage.


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