Saturday, March 24, 2012

Loving Frank

Book Review

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

I have often enjoyed historical fiction, so I knew I wanted to give this book a try.

The historical figure here is Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect. He is famous for his "prairie houses", among other things.

Wright's work came in the midst of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which saw a complete reversal of the Victorian frilliness. Arts and Crafts is all about blending with nature, clean lines, geometric shapes, and a return to fine craftsmanship.

I've never been to see one of Wright's houses, but I like craftsman/mission architecture, which is prominent in places in California. Greene and Greene built many houses in Pasadena in the craftsman style.

I admire the clean lines, fresh woodwork, and attention to detail exhibited by most craftsman works. It was common to have furniture made specifically for the individual houses in keeping with the style of the specific house.

No sofa/loveseat sets purchased from Costco.

I was curious to know more about Wright. His legendary architecture is known far and wide. But this was bound to be a story about him, which I didn't really know much about.

It was time to get a glimpse into the legend.

Loving Frank

This historical novel is cast from the point of view of Mamah (pronounced may-mah), Wright's mistress. He was married, she was married. And they fell in love anyways. It is clear throughout the story that their love was not acceptable in any form at that time. It just wasn't allowed. And there were consequences for pursuing it.

The story covers only this part of Wright's life, which turns out to be a relatively short part. I don't know much more, except that he had several wives by the time of his death. We only get the story as it revolves around Mamah.

Saying much more will require spoiler alerts!

I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is fluid, yet not simplistic. We are given the most insight into Mamah, but also some into Wright. Many of Wright's works of the time are mentioned, but they are described lightly. I would love to see an illustrated version of this book, full of photos, drawings, and sketches of the actual Wright structures.

I was quickly impressed with the book and proud of myself. The author used a reference to Hester Prynne. Just a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have known this literary allusion. I now know who that is!  Prynne is the main character in The Scarlet Letter!

This is why I am filling in the gaps of my knowledge of literature! I want to recognize and understand such allusions. It is working!

Since the book is not illustrated, I went poking around on the web to see pictures of Taliesin and Midway Gardens. I was fascinated by Midway Gardens, first because I had never heard of them, and then later because I learned that they stood for just a few short years before being torn down. That in and of itself is a tragedy.

During this poking and searching for pictures of Wright's works, I was also reading a bit about him. And then I read a bit too much. I was only about half or maybe two-thirds of the way through the book. But my reading on the web spoiled the ending.

Don't do this! Go ahead and find pictures, but don't let yourself be sucked into reading captions and excerpts and articles! Not if you want to throughly enjoy the book. Read the book first, to completion, then go read whatever you want on the web.

If you do read more on the web before finishing book, don't blame me. I warned you.

All told, I really loved reading this book. I don't know if the author has any other novels, but I might just have to search for some.

If you are at all interested by Wright or his architecture or his personal life, this is a good read. Even if you don't have the slightest idea who Wright was or what he designed, this is still a good read.


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