Loving Frank, By Nancy Horan

Loving Frank is of course is about a love affair. An illicit  love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick.

I had no idea that Frank Lloyd Wright was such a bounder.  You see books of his architecture and visit his houses, you see interviews of him on TV and you haven’t a clue of what he was really like.  I think this book gives you some idea.  Frank Lloyd Wright was egotistical and self centered. But maybe those very traits produced his wonderful eye riveting architecture, but in human relationships led to a lot of broken hearts and grief.

Edward Cheney commissions Frank to build him a house in the Chicago suburbs.  Mamah, wife and mother of his two children, is somewhat bored with her life.  The youngest child who has done well for herself, who’s sister lives with them and has a housekeeper too, really does not have too much to do.  She is an intellectual and is interested in philosophies of the day, including Ellen Kaye the Swedish feminist.  Edward is good, loving and to her boring.

She starts an affair with Frank, eventually they both leave their respective partners under a great cloud of scandal in 1907-1914 era and cruise to Europe where they take up residency in Italy.  Here although a free thinking Mamah has to conform to Frank’s idea of the traditional wife, although not married, because Frank’s wife will not give him a divorce.  She must take second fiddle to his creative time and desire, he must shine, she must support him.

Eventually they go back to Frank’s hometown and he starts to build a beautiful house on the family property, Taliesen in Wisconsin.  He recruits local builders and artisans to carry out his every whim of creation.  It is a showpiece it is their house, it is beautiful.

It is at this time that Mamah starts to see Frank in his more narrow aspect of pettiness.  His buying of expensive furniture, when he hasn’t even paid the local lumber store, his workers, or the grocery bills.  Frank feels it is his unalienable right to be surrounded by beauty,even luxuriousness, never mind that the local carpenter is not paid.

Frank is away on other projects and all the trades people, and that is how Frank views them “Trades People”  not an artist, creative person that he is.  Mamah has to take things in hand and start the mundane every day life of paying these huge debts.  A new side of Frank is revealed to her.

She has left everything for Frank and is willing to make a go of it, especially since here children have now been allowed to visit her.  At this point a terrible tragedy happens.  All lives of the people involved are burnt up in fire, except for Frank, who seems to come through in an asbestos suite.  To live in the house of his creative dreams with a new love.

Read the book it’s quite riveting.

Christy

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