Stephanie's Reviews > Loving Frank

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
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's review
Jul 17, 2009

liked it

I was excited to read this book for my book club because I love the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, but have never read anything about his personal life.

Simply from reading the back cover I knew this book would be a challenge because it deals with infidelity, the true self, love, honesty and family. I knew that Mamah and Frank's story was going to present a sort of moral morass. It was interesting to me from my 21st century perspective to read how this early 20th century woman (for the book is almost exclusively from Mamah's point of view) dealt with such troubling themes. I didn't know if I would be able to sympathize with her struggles, but I did.

It's more of a testament to the power of books (and Horan's very good writing) that I could feel so absolutely that what she did was wrong in my present-day mindset, and then feel the struggles and heartbreak that Mamah experienced every moment for the consequences of her actions. I did sympathize with her. I did find some of her arguments about the self and self-love and self-actualization to be very powerful. As a woman who has undergone a good deal of internal review myself to come to a place of inner happiness, I can see why she made some of the choices she did.

As I mentioned above, I had no previous knowledge of Wright's personal life, and had never heard of Mamah Borthwick Cheney before reading this novel, so I was absolutely shocked at the end. I won't spoil it for anyone by elaborating, but unfortunately I think that is what has stuck with me more than anything. Morbid curiousity, sadness, sympathy--rather than the 'lessons' learned by Mamah throughout the period that the novel covers.

While I do realize that this is to a large degree a fictionalized account, based on the few facts that are known about their relationship, I was extremely impressed with the dedication and commitment that Horan put into writing this piece. You do feel an affinity with Mamah, the anguish of her choices (love vs. resonsibility, self vs. child), the confusion of a woman on the cusp of radical change--the trials of early feminism, philosophy, education and the remaining Victorian mores and standard of the 'Angel of the Hearth' that Mamah had become so disenchanted and dissatisfied with confronting in her marriage.

I did feel that Frank wasn't a fully-formed character, though. I couldn't really see what had drawn Mamah to him, other than that he was an intellectual equal. Horan focused on the flawed, egotistical, petty man and--to me--made it hard to understand why someone as dynamic as Mamah allowed herself to become involved with such a man.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Stephanie, this is a very provocative review. I wonder why you give the book 3 stars, when the review, for the most part, is relatively positive. Is it simply because Frank wasn't a fully-formed character?

Stephanie Jenny wrote: "Stephanie, this is a very provocative review. I wonder why you give the book 3 stars, when the review, for the most part, is relatively positive. Is it simply because Frank wasn't a fully-formed ..."

I gave the book three stars because it was so well-written and researched, and because anything that can make me sympathize with a woman whose choices I find personally distateful is pretty strong! I thought that the writing and the story let me move outside my own bias and try to understand Mamah's reasoning. I didn't necessarily agree with her--in fact much of the time I found her selfish and that the philosophies she espoused were convenient justifications for her actions--and still found the book interesting enough to read on, to continue to be challenged by, to allow myself to be drawn into a moral debate that I would normally eschew.

message 3: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Huh.

Stephanie Jenny wrote: "Huh."

I make this deep, cogent argument about philosophy and morality and you give me, "huh"? Well! ;)

message 5: by Jenny (new)

Jenny :) I guess your initial review made me think, "Hm, this may be an interesting book to read," but then you rated it 3 stars. So I think my "huh" was my response to your cogent argument about philosophy and morality in trying to figure out should I read this book or not? I am still on the fence!

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