Loving Frank


Author: Nancy Horan

Title: Loving Frank

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships/Literary Fiction/Bestsellers

Publication date: 2007

Number of pages: 356

Geographical setting: Illinois; Wisconsin

Time period: 1903 — 1914

Series: (If applicable): Not applicable

Plot summary: A novelization of the tumultuous love affair between the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the wife of one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, and its dramatic denouement. When Cheney and Wright met after her husband Edwin commissioned Wright to design a house for their family in Oak Park, the two intelligent, headstrong personalities recognized in each other soul mates, their lives destined to be tangled together. Faced with disapprovals (both were married with kids) and Wright’s grandiose and mad methods, Cheney and Wright eloped to Europe and then to make a home in Taliesin, Wisconsin. Horan vividly and empathetically portrays Cheney’s conflicts and struggles to find her place in the world as her own woman, as mother, wife, lover and writer. An interesting sidebar is Cheney’s working relationship with feminist Ellen Key. Told in third person but mostly from Cheney’s point of view, the story is a compelling tale of an early 20th century American intellectual woman caught between her family, society’s mores, and her own passions, both of the heart and the head.

Subject headings: Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959–Fiction; Cheney, Martha Borthwick, 1869-1914–Fiction; Architects.

Appeal: Fictionalized history; Women’s lives; Detailed descriptions of astonishing architecture; Dramatic tale; Charismatic and complex characters; Elegant writing; Love story; Provocative; Passionate; Intelligent; Unsentimental; Period accuracy; Philosophical debate of early American feminism.

Three terms that best describe this book: Engrossing; powerful; insightful.

Similar author and works and why they are similar:

3 Relevant  Non-fiction Works and Authors:

a) Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders by William R. Drennan. For those who want the factual details of what happened at Taliesin, this is an insightful, careful and contextual construction of the historic and tragic events before, during and after Aug. 15, 1914.

b) Tales of Taliesin: A memoir of Fellowship by Cornelia Brierly. Mamah Borthwick Cheney would have appreciated this true, honest and affectionate story of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first apprentices at his School of Architecture. Brierly made important contributions to Wright’s building projects in the last 30 years of his career. She spent almost all her life (70 years) with the Taliesin Fellowship, a close-knit group of architects who worked, studied and lived together, created by Wright and his wife Olgivanna.

c) From Eve to Dawn: A history of women in the world by Marilyn French. This four-volume work by one of America’s most well-known feminists illuminates the journey women around the world have taken through history to get to some semblance of equality with men. The fourth volume takes off from the impact of the Industrial revolution on women and work, and focuses on the political revolutions of the 20th century, with a thoughtful investigation into the feminist movements throughout the world.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

a) The Women by T.C. Boyle. Seen through the eyes of one of Wright’s young Japanese apprentices, this very readable novel examines the relationships of four unique women with the architect in reverse chronological order, painting a vivid picture of Wright as a self-absorbed artist.

b) Emily’s Ghost: A novel of the Bronte sisters by Denise Giardina. A solid, biographical novel of the Bronte sisters, focusing on Emily and her unusual relationship with the flirtatious young curate William Weightman, this Victorian gothic is a touching study of mid-19th century England.

c) The World before Her by Deborah Weisgall. A compelling story of the parallel worlds of two marriages 100 years apart, connected by location (Venice) and the women’s strong, artistic selves. The novel is based on writer George Eliot (Marian Evans, 1819-1880) and her relationship between her lover and her husband, and the impact on her creativity and life’s work.

By: Soon Har



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