Nancy Corbett


Loving Frank

by Nancy Horan

Last year, the book topping my list was The Women by T.C. Boyle. Had I not read it, I would probably not have been inclined to pick up Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Loving Frank is the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the second woman of Frank Lloyd Wright's four long-term relationships.

Okay. I have to break out the feminist regime for a moment here. I hate the title of this book. I hate that the book asserts that Frank was a better man due to his relationship with Mamah. WTF cares? Yeah. FLW was the most awe-inspiring architect this side of the Renaissance, and a heck of an interesting guy. But, second to his architecture, his taste in women is the most interesting thing about him.

Mamah Borthwick was so ahead of her time. She was a feminist, a brilliant translator, a scholar and a great intellectual of the early 20th century. Had she not been a life partner of a famous man, had her life not been embroiled in scandal and had she not died such a tragic and bloody death, we would not have heard of her. Her fame is due to her relationship with FLW, but she is still worthy of fame in her own right. So, why is it necessary to define her first as a woman who loved Frank? I think that the book's title diminishes her. 'Nuff said.

The story follows Mamah from her marriage to Cheney to her death in 1914. Horan breaths life into all the characters with humor and compassion. Frank is bigger than life, self-absorbed, self-indulgant yet tender and thoughtful and generous. Mamah is drawn with the detail of a flemish still life, her outer actions ruddered by her deep inner life. As the story progresses, Mamah's convictions grow, convictions that relationships require love and mutual respect and equality.

Loving Frank isn't about Frank Lloyd Wright. Horan's book is Mamah's treatise on the meaning of love and the constitution of commitment.

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams..." Arthur O'Shaughnessy


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