Loving Frank: A Novel

Loving Frank: A Novel

  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Mamah Barthwick Cheney
  • Love Affair

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 love

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3 thoughts on “Loving Frank: A Novel

  1. 397 of 416 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Fascinating look at the internal life of Wright and his lover, September 11, 2007
    By 
    Barbara L. Pinzka “Book Friend” (Cincinnati, Ohio USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Loving Frank: A Novel (Hardcover)
    I have studied the work and bio of Frank Lloyd Wright for many years, even traveling to his Western headquarters, Taliesen West, and touring homes he built in four cities. I was well aware of his strengths and faults, but little has been published about the women in his wife, other than his domineering, smothering mother and his strident, domineering third (and last) wife. (I’m counting Mamah Borthwick, his lover for about a half-dozen years, as a second wife, since they would have married if his first wife had granted him a divorce; he and Borthwick lived together for several years).

    Wright’s towering ego is well known and well documented. By choosing to look at Wright and his work through the eyes of Mamah, his lover, in this fictionalized historical tale, Horan brings new insight into the demons and angels that inspired his vision. Wright’s well-documented narcissism and inability to control himself personally is examined as well, but not as the fatal flaws offered by most biographers, but as components of an immensely complex and genius personality.

    Mamah’s (first) husband was first to see Wright’s vision but Mamah was the one to embrace it wholly as Wright set about building them a home in Oak Park, not far from his own house. Wright was a star on the rise at that time, accepting commissions almost faster than he could manage them, but the affair he and Mamah embarked upon, which caused her to abandon her children, led to considerable scandal and major setbacks to his business.

    Mamah was a recognized scholar and intellect until she was subsumed into a loveless marriage by the conventions of the time. In Wright she found the outlet for her passions and the independence she longed for, and the support and acceptance to rebuild her professional life, which became linked with that of the feminist Swedish scholar Ellen Keyes. Mamah’s story, and that of the feminists of her time, is largely lost to history, and for reminding us of those seminal and important figures alone Horan deserves a deep bow.

    Horan’s work also exumes many litle-known facts about Wright and his times: his love for rural Wisconsin, where he grew up; his fascination with Japan and business in buying and selling Japanese antiguities; and his admiration for the classic Tuscan homes of northern Italy. As this book documents the times in which Wright was shaping his own vision with the help and guidance of Mamah, we can better understand the architecture for which he became so famous.

    For those familiar with Wrights biography, the tragic end to his and mamah’s affair is well known. For others, it will come as a shock. Horan is simply masterful in describing the events as they must have occurred.

    I enjoyed the book tremendously, but I have one major quibble: Horan offers little documentation for her narrative for the reader who might want to learn as much as she does. As one generally familiar with the story I find it authemtic, but an appendix elaborating on the sources Horan used would add to the book’s credibility.

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  2. 69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    TO BE PERFECTLY FRANK…, February 5, 2008
    By 
    Red Rock Bookworm (St. George Utah USA) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)
      

    This review is from: Loving Frank: A Novel (Hardcover)
    Frank Lloyd Wright was, and is, considered by many to be an architectural visionary. His Prarie homes were organic in nature and designed to blend into the landscape rather than compete with it.

    Frank himself could hardly be considered as a man who “blended into the landscape” and his unconventional affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a married woman with two children, resulted in tragedy both personal and professional

    Author Nancy Horan’s historical novel takes you into the lives and minds of this unusual couple and explores their relationship and its effect the people who loved them as well as those on the periphery of their passion.

    We are drawn into the inner thoughts of Mameh, an accomplished woman in her own right…..college graduate, fluent in several languages…..and her attempt to “stop standing on the side of life watching it float by” and instead “swim in the river and feel it’s current”. In an era when women were expected to quash any desire for personal growth and “act happy”, Mameh’s personal conflict forced her to make choices that provided temporary satisfaction, but were ultimately disasterous.

    Could it be that you, like me, will become so consumed by Horan’s vivid portrayal of this couple that you will find yourself searching the internet for more information about “what happened after” Horan’s tale ends.

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  3. 172 of 192 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Astonishingly fresh and riveting novel, August 7, 2007
    By 
    Michele Weldon “Michele Weldon” (Chicago, Illinois United States) –

    This review is from: Loving Frank: A Novel (Hardcover)
    No matter your allegiance to the narcissistic genius who was Frank Lloyd Wright, it is Mamah Cheney who will mesmerize you with her intelligence, sensitivity and straightforward innocence. To dare to write such a complicated true story and to succeed so masterfully is a feat few authors can achieve. Nancy Horan is a remarkably gifted writer who brings you close to the complex love affair between Mamah and Frank and grips you with her elqouent prose. I have not enjoyed a book as much in a very long time. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to dive into an extremely satisfying novel and not emerge from its spell until you turn the last page.

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