Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan~★★★

Author: Nancy Horan
Loving Frank
Release Date:
April 8th, 2008
Ballatine Books
Historical Fiction

Book Jacket: "'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 groundbreaking historical 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, and her unforgettable journey, marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leads inexorably 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."

Taryn's Review: I picked out this book on a simple recommendation. Someone said they liked it, I checked if the library had it, and then I added it my pile of book. I really had no background about the book, so I didn't have any idea what the story was about.

It took me a long while to realize the feminist element that Horan presented Mamah Borthwick Cheney as having. At first I was very annoyed with Mamah. She "settled" for Edwin Cheney as a husband and stepped into the role of housewife knowing full well she wasn't in love with Edwin. Nothing screamed feminist about that to me. In fact, she paid no heed to the deceit she was living in regard to Edwin, which was so unfair to him.

Next, Mamah fell in love with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright after her Mamah's husband was commissioned by Wright to build them a house. Mamah and Frank began an affair, despite the fact that both were married and both had children. To me, I didn't really understand how this was a feminist move, either. Breaking up another woman's family? Traveling to Europe together, abandoning her children and Frank's children for a year (Mamah longer), and ignoring all the responsibility she had created didn't make her a feminist in the least.

I think one of the ironies was without Edwin having made as much money as he had, he couldn't have hired Wright.  Without the means to hire Wright, Mamah would have never met Wright. Mamah's best friend, Mattie, even tried to point out how Mamah was spoiled by Edwin. I was appalled with Mamah's suggestion as she debated a divorce if Edwin could support her and the children (and her worst case scenario was that he wouldn't and she would have to get a job). I would think a true feminist wouldn't expect her ex-husband to support her!

I also felt like the relationship was very one-sided. Mamah was alone at some holidays while Frank went back to his wife and their children to celebrate. Mamah relocated to Wisconsin for Frank's dream of having a farm there. Mamah was the one who had to help Frank out of his debt. Mamah went without seeing her children daily because of her relationship with Frank; she was scorned in Chicago while Frank was free to go back to the city with little repercussions. One could even argue that Mamah's untimely death was in direct correlation to her relationship with Frank.

I think Horan is a splendid writer, but I wasn't overly found of the topic she chose. I also would have loved a works' cited page where she gave credit to the sources she used regarding the history in her book.

I would definitely read another of Horan's book, but I hope she decides to do fiction. I like historical fiction when it inspires an interest for the reader, but this topic did the opposite for me. Horan's writing style is elegant and was the pull for me to continue the book.


  1. I didn't like this book because I couldn't stand FLW or Mamah.

  2. I'm a huge FLW fan so I did love this book but I totally agree with you on the works cited issue. I would have loved to see some of the sources for her material.