2010:  53. Loving Frank

"It was Edwin who wanted to build a new house.  I didn't mind the old Queen Anne on Oak Park Avenue."

Loving Frank, Nancy Horan

      This was  a sort of unusual read for me, in that I really enjoyed the writing, but could not stand the story.  Or, more specifically, I found the writing to be engaging - page turning, even, but I loathed the protagonist.  And since I don’t think the author felt the same way, it seemed like a very strange read.  Obviously there are lots of books written about unsympathetic protagonists, but I got the impression that Horan thought her hero was in the right*, and that we should be rooting for her, and so I found the book a little off-putting.  

      This is the story of Mameh Borthwick Cheney, an educated upper class woman, who, in the early years of the 20th century, fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright, and left her husband and children to be with him (and, to be fair, to try to find herself).  First she went to Europe, then she came home and lived with him at his home in Wisconsin, Talesin.  It’s based upon a true story - which makes it even stranger, because the ending** is dictated by true history, and is both tragic and bizarre in a way that the story that Horan is telling - which is about self-actualization, and love, and whether it’s worth it to sacrifice others for your own happiness - cannot prepare you for.  Which is, of course, how real life works, but is strange in a novel.  But (since I already knew what happened) I was prepared for that aspect.  What made me keep putting down the book was that I just didn’t like Mameh - the author wanted me to accept that her choices were hard, but necessary, but I thought she sort of sucked.  On the other hand, the writing was good enough that I kept picking it back up, and finished the book, so there you have it.  Plus, knowing what happened to Mameh in real life, I did have a sort of watching a car crash type interest in seeing the ending (which I then regretted, because it was really sad).

Date/Place Completed: July 2010; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Library Book

*Which isn’t to say that the author doesn’t grapple with some of the hard questions raised by Mameh’s choices - just that, in the end, she leans on Mameh side a little too heavily, I think.  Or, maybe, even if she doesn’t that I just didn’t enjoy reading a book about someone who put personal enlightenment above everyone else in her life, including her children (not to mention her poor sister, who really took on the brunt of her selfishness). 

** I don’t want to spoil it, but you can look on wikipedia, if you’re interested.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017