Horan's ambitious first novel is a fictionalization of the life of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, best known as the woman who wrecked Frank Lloyd Wright's first marriage. Despite the title, this is not a romance, but a portrayal of an independent, educated woman at odds with the restrictions of the early 20th century. Frank and Mamah, both married and with children, met when Mamah's husband, Edwin, commissioned Frank to design a house. Their affair became the stuff of headlines when they left their families to live and travel together, going first to Germany, where Mamah found rewarding work doing scholarly translations of Swedish feminist Ellen Key's books. Frank and Mamah eventually settled in Wisconsin, where they were hounded by a scandal-hungry press, with tragic repercussions. Horan puts considerable effort into recreating Frank's vibrant, overwhelming personality, but her primary interest is in Mamah, who pursued her intellectual interests and love for Frank at great personal cost. As is often the case when a life story is novelized, historical fact inconveniently intrudes: Mamah's life is cut short in the most unexpected and violent of ways, leaving the narrative to crawl toward a startlingly quiet conclusion. Nevertheless, this spirited novel brings Mamah the attention she deserves as an intellectual and feminist.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Ladies in Attendance:
Ladies Book Club: 3 (I was unable to attend due to work)
B.Y.O.B Book Club (11 members)
Ladies Book Club: Drunken Goat Cheese, Chips, Jalapeno and Mango Sausage, Chicken Wings, Hummus, Pita and Wine.
B.Y.O.B Book Club: Tortilla Roll Ups, Pumpkin Bars, Cream Cheese with savory sauces, Chips, Chocolate, a delicious cheesy/nut crockpot delight, wine and so much more I can't remember.
To Read or Not to Read:
Ladies Book Club: 2 Ladies read 25%, 1 read 75%, 1 read it all.
B.Y.O.B Book Club: 10 members read it all, 1 member was almost done with it
I will not be combining my book clubs like this in future posts but we did happen to read the same book for this month. It generated a lot of discussion and I wanted to share it with you all. I was unable to make it to the Ladies Book Club night due to work but I did make it to B.Y.O.B group night, so I wanted to include their reactions as well.
First, my reaction was that it was indeed a very well written, well researched novel. I could tell the author was in awe of her subjects, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney and wanted to flesh out their story as much as possible. In some parts it was too detailed and it became a tad boring in the middle but overall, it kept my attention.
My flaw with it was that of the decisions of the characters themselves. I found Frank to be completely self absorbed, immature and irresponsible, in his work and in his personal life. I did not know anything of him or his story before I read it so it came as a surprise to me that as talented as he was, he was such a putz like little man at times.
Mamah I had issues with because of her decisions to abandon her children for Frank. I know these are real people who made these real choices and I can't dislike the book for that. I just did not agree with the choices they made. Mamah was educated, well cared for, loved by her husband and still yearned for more. She ran off to find it in Frank and along the way, she latched on to others that intrigued her. As a woman, I could identify a bit with her yearning. As a mother, I was appauled she abandoned her kids for two years to seek out those desires.
We had much discussion about this. Was it the times back then? Was it okay to do that? To leave your children with relatives for long extended periods of time?
Who knows. Perhaps. It just pissed me off. I can be a volatile reader. Don't mess with the mom in me, I guess.
Overall, I am glad I read it. It certainly was hyped up to book clubs while I was working at the bookstore. I just didn't find it to leave me with a warm feeling at the end. In the B.Y.O.B club we rate our books on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best. I rated the story a 2 and the writing a 4. Overall, a 3 rating I guess.
Description from Amazon's Website:
I received notes from my pal, Rachelle for the Ladies and the gals from B.Y.O.B had a pretty lively discussion. It may be a bit hard to sum it all up. The Ladies leaned a bit more towards my feelings of it all; a little dry in the middle, transitions from chapter to chapter a bit choppy, the characters were a bit whack, the roles of women at the time were intriguing, etc. B.Y.O.B gals all rated it really high, stating it was well written, full of intriguing flawed characters with a dynamic and shocking ending. I wish I could have made it to both clubs to compare so I am sorry if I have more notes from B.Y.O.B this time around. More of the gals seemed to sympathize with Mamah much more than I, saying she was strong to follow her dreams and courageous to leave her family. Also, more gals could see the genius and creativity in Frank instead of concentrating so much on the irresponsibility and the disrespect for the common man that I couldn't get past. Call me a bitch but I would have been like "Yo, Mamah..what's up? Frank's a loser with tons of debt and doesn't pay his helpers. That's not cool. And, by the way, where are your kids? Oh yeah, thats right. you LEFT them." Grrr...
I'm sure I am sound uber disrespectful and I apologize to the Cheney and the Wright family. I do. I just had a hard time with their love affair.
But I thank my book club ladies (both of them) for opening up my eyes to their views and trying to convince me of the humanness of them both. Towards the end of the B.Y.O.B discussion, I could see their point. It was a different time. The roles of women were different. Classist societies were definitely in existence. Art and creativity were something to be in awe of. And, no, Mamah did not deserve to come to a fiery end.
Good Book Club Pick?
Obviously from my rantings and ramblings you can see it was indeed a good pick. I wish I was at the Ladies meet up to discuss it but it seems they felt a bit more like me. Less impressed but still somewhat intrigued. The B.Y.O.B gals rated it a 3.98 overall and agreed that it was a great pick to discuss. We had official questions but we generated plenty of chatting on our own. They thought it was an excellent, well written book, that even with some slow parts, kept them all intrigued up until the tragic ending.
Next Book Up:
The Ladies will be having our Holiday Party next month. No book to read but there will be books to swap and pick for next year and plenty of booze and goodies!
B.Y.O.B Book Club will be reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!
red headed book child