Last year when I saw several of the girls in my group of friends reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, I didn't understand the appeal. It's a stuffy old architect from over 100 years ago, right?
In Loving Frank, Nancy Horan creates a historical fiction story about one of Frank Lloyd Wright's long term mistresses, Mamah Cheney. Although the details in the book are made up, the bigger picture is all factual and everything that happened in the book, really happened between 1903 and 1914.
I thought, ok. This sounds good. Maybe someday I will read it, and then I promptly forgot about it.
Then when Lisa suggested touring the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park, IL while we were all Chicago, she urged me to read Loving Frank. I didn't want to tour his home cold, and know very little about his life, so I checked out the book and planned to begin reading it on the bus to Chicago.
Oh my, am I glad that I did. Not just because I gained some knowledge about Frank Lloyd Wright's family before touring his home, but because it was so interesting and the story was so enthralling. FLW is a very charismatic man that is easy to love and hate at the same time. I commented to the girls once we got to Chicago that I wasn't sure if I liked Frank. Obviously, he's unfaithful to his wife and he's famously carrying on an affair with another married woman, but there are moments in the book where I was literally cheering for Frank and Mamah, wanting them to be together.
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
The end of this book had a twist so shocking and out of nowhere that it left me stunned and heartbroken. Since finishing this book, I have not been able to stop thinking about it and have already recommended it to several people.
You want to know the twist right? I'm telling you, you will fly through this book just to get to this twist!
While in Chicago I was really looking forward to touring FLW's home. His home, which he built for his wife and children to live in is nestled in an Oak Park neighborhood, surrounded by old Victorian homes. It's kind of funny to see, because there are all these homes that look very similar and then sitting on the corner is a FLW home, that is so clearly not like the others.
The tour took about an hour and we toured his family room, dining room, children's bedrooms and playrooms, FLW and his wife's bedroom and his studio. The guide was fantastic and she was so clearly well-educated on his life and career. She had many anecdotal stories and comments about each room. It made the tour so much fun!
Today I am linking up with Blonde Undercover Blonde for her Friday Book Club - stop by and check it out! I'm always interested in seeing what everybody else is reading.