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By Nancy Horan (Ballantine; August 7)
The PrÃ©cis: Former resident of Frank Lloyd Wright territory (Oak Park, Illinois) fictionalizes the architectâ€™s scandalous affair with the wife of a client.
Pros: Maybe the buzziest serious novel of the summerâ€”including a coveted spot on BookExpoâ€™s â€œBuzz Panel.â€�
Cons: The bar has been set highâ€”a 75,000-copy printing is a lot for a debut. Critics will have one eye on the hype, the other on historical accuracy.
(the cover looks familiar....)
From Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug.)
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Advance praise for Loving Frank
â€œThis graceful, assured first novel tells the remarkable story of the long-lived affair between Frank Lloyd Wright, a passionate and impossible figure, and Mamah Cheney, a married woman whom Wright beguiled and led beyond the restraint of convention. It is engrossing, provocative reading.â€�
â€œIt takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wrightâ€™s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.â€�
â€œI admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt sheâ€™ll ever leave.â€�
â€œLoving Frank is one of those novels that takes over your life. Itâ€™s mesmerizing and fascinatingâ€“filled with complex characters, deep passions, tactile descriptions of astonishing architecture, and the colorful immediacy of daily life a hundred years agoâ€“all gathered into a story that unfolds with riveting urgency.â€�
More importantly, if in fact this book proves to be as commercially successful as seems to be anticipated, it could go a long way towards exposing FLW to a larger segment of the general public, thereby increasing awareness about the other aspects of his life and work, which IMHO can only be construed as a positive for the greater good of FLW, his work and his legacy.
What's more, this book seems to have the potential to achieve a more far-reaching affect than most of the very historically correct and accurate books (which I very thoroughly enjoy!) that are directed at a very small percentage of the marketplace, namely the architectural community and * enthusiasts like those of us who frequent this forum and the like.
I'm very interested to hear the thoughts of the other participants of the forum on this.