Thursday, June 14, 2012
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan has been on my radar for a while but I never picked it up. Then a friend of mine highly recommended it last Saturday and I finished it in just three days. It was that riveting. I simply couldn't put it down. It wasn't just the fascinating story that gripped me but Horan's fluid and readable prose. Before this I confess that I only knew Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect. I never imagined that he had such a turbulent personal life which involved several children, three marriages and a mistress.
Loving Frank is a fictionalized account of the affair between Wright and Mamah Cheney during the early 1900s. Before this there was surprisingly very little written about this period in Wright's life so Horan wrote using newspaper accounts and correspondences between Cheney and others to get a feel for her personality and thoughts. Mamah and her husband commissioned Wright to design and build their house in Oak Park, Chicago. Mamah fell in love with him during their interactions discussing the house, design, nature and various other intellectual topics. A fierce feminist and thinker before her marriage, she was quite starved for these conversations because it was lacking in her relationship with her husband.
What Mamah does next would shock any devoted mother. It's not because she decides to leave her husband and two children but it's the manner in which she does it. Her decision is selfish and cruel and will affect a number of people and have severe repercussions for years to come. Although I started to dislike Frank and Mamah more and more, I couldn't stop reading. I followed Mamah and Frank to Europe where they escape from their spouses and children for almost two years. Mamah finds her own calling as a translator of the controversial Swedish feminist and writer Ellen Key. In short she finally finds herself and what she's meant to do with her life. I don't want to give too much away since it's actually best not to know a thing if you're reading this book. If you do read it then do not google any of the personalities involved until the end. This story would be so unbelievable if it wasn't actually true. Loving Frank was my book club's pick for June and it was an excellent choice since there's just so much to discuss. Highly recommended especially for a book group.
*Photograph from Andreanna Moya Photography