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Loving Frank | [Nancy Horan]

Loving Frank

I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current. So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them.
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Publisher's Summary

"I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current."

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this groundbreaking historical novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America's greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Mamah's profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan's Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world, and her unforgettable journey, marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leads inexorably to this novel's stunning conclusion.

©2007 Nancy Horan; (P)2007 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"This spirited novel brings Mamah the attention she deserves as an intellectual and feminist." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (657 )
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3.9 (251 )
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4.0 (245 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Eva Gannon Chicago, Illinois, US 12-29-08
    Eva Gannon Chicago, Illinois, US 12-29-08 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating"

    If you don't know the story of Mamah and Frank, don't Google it. I didn't and I did, and regretted having done so. It would have been more satisfying to let the book unfold without knowing the end.

    This is an excellent audiobook. It brings to life a woman heretofore relegated to a footnote in the history of the brilliant and famous Frank Lloyd Wright. I think Mamah Borthwicke would be pleased.

    The book dragged a bit somewhere around the middle, although this might have been because Googling it spoiled it a bit for me. But the ending was powerful, gut-wrenching, and I actually cried. After listening to Frank's letter to the Chicago Tribune -- which is an accurate rendering, btw -- I realized that like the Trib's readers, I had fallen into some shallow opinions of Mamah. This too, may account for the dragging I noticed.

    This is a great read, treat yourself. Take stock at the end and ask yourself if you too, have judged Mamah as Frank charges. It's a stimulating exercise.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 03-16-09
    Amanda Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 03-16-09
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    "Not loving the production editor so much..."

    This is a splendid piece of historical fiction, obviously constructed on a framework of assiduous research. The story of Frank and Mamah's relationship would be melodramatic if it hadn't been real, and Nancy Horan's telling of it captures a perfect balance of drama and restraint.

    My one regret is that no one coached the narrator on either German pronunciation (her mangling of book titles and place names was positively jarring) or on her attempts to narrate passages using Swedish and Welsh accents. It would have been better to read the text unaccented than to get it so dreadfully, distractingly wrong. Brilliance Audio was less than brilliant on that front, but the book as a whole is very worthwhile.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly-o Seattle 08-20-08
    Molly-o Seattle 08-20-08 Member Since 2007

    English major. Love to read

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hang in there"

    I wasn't sure I liked anybody in this book at the beginning - children left behind for a man whose genius was obvious but his sense of purpose arrogant and obsessive. But from a female point of view, the book is fascinating. Mamah is really the focus and she ends up creating a life for herself and her children and emerges with a great deal of integrity. I ended up loving the book although never really loved Frank.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Pinole, CA, United States 08-19-10
    Kimberly Pinole, CA, United States 08-19-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Difficult to relate to"

    WARNING: SPOILER ALERT - I MENTION HOW THE BOOK ENDS. I found it very hard to sympathize with or like the 2 main characters of this book - Mamah and Frank - because they were impossibly selfish, arrogant, and otherwise plain insufferable. "Dahling, we must run away together and leave our combined 2 spouses and 9 children behind because we are extraordinary." Puh-lease. And I found it hard to believe that Mamah suddenly developed some morals when she discovered Frank was cheating people who worked for him - didn't bother her to dump her young children on her sister or leave them with a bedridden friend so she could be with her lover. So when the ax murderer steps out of the shadows to chop Mamah up, I was almost cheering him. But I think the author did the best she could do with the history of these two people. I just don't understand why she thought their story was compelling enough to novelize. I did not care much for the narrator, who more performed the characters rather than interpreted them. She also had some odd ways of talking - she seemed to think people from the Midwest always pronounce Berlin as "Bear-Lynn" and gave odd pronunciations to otherwise common words. Skip this one.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna east farmingdale, NY, USA 08-16-09
    Donna east farmingdale, NY, USA 08-16-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Ladies this is must read!"

    Take a slice of history about the suffraget movement and throw it into an illicit affair with a world famous architect and you have one hellva story. So vividly told you can smell the warm headyness of the prairie grass

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roberta AR 03-04-09
    Roberta AR 03-04-09 Member Since 2006
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    "Interesting Account of a Relationship"

    This is a facinating account of a the "scandalous" affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwich Cheney. I couldn't help thinking how selfish Mamah was to leave her family for FLW and I don't understand how that really helped the women's movement, since she was supposed to have been a big feminist. The embarassment both of their families suffered was great as they were hounded by the press and snubbed by former friends, after the affair was brought to light in the newspapers. The story does drag in places and the narrator's voice drove me crazy at times, especially when she was speaking as FLW.

    I certainly would recommend resisting the urge to Google information about this couple as you will spoil the ending for yourself...I did and I regreted doing so.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marina Woodside, CA, United States 03-30-10
    Marina Woodside, CA, United States 03-30-10
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    "Distracting narration"

    "Loving Frank" is a fairly interesting read, with its themes of nascent feminism and extra-marital passion, but I found the narrator's style almost unbearably distracting. When reading Frank's dialogue, she forces her voice (normally a pleasant mid-range timbre) into a croak at the very bottom register of her vocal range, which leaves no room for emotional inflection and makes Frank sounds like a permanently petulant and monotonous boor, rather than mercurially charming, which is what I assume the author intended. It would be a very different story had the narrator used her natural voice. As it is, one cannot begin to believe that an intelligent woman like Mameh would consider breaking social taboos for such a grouchy, croaking wretch.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clarissa Blytheville, AR, USA 05-15-09
    Clarissa Blytheville, AR, USA 05-15-09 Member Since 2008
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    "WOW"

    Great novel. Great narrorator. Imaginative story. Great research. As another review said DO NOT GOOGLE! NOT EVEN TO CHECK OUT PICS OF FRANKS WORK!!!

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J-9 Cary, NC, United States 09-26-12
    J-9 Cary, NC, United States 09-26-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Well written - what a story!"

    I have to give credit to Nancy Horan for tackling this story. It's so hard for me to remember that she is telling someone else's story and not a story about herself or even a true work of fiction.

    It is just so hard for me to understand Mamah's ability to just leave her children. She was so self-centered and more worried about her soul than the soul of her children. The only reason she left her kids was for the love of a self-centered man and her own self-centered ambition. Mamah had absolutely no respect for her sister who gave up all of her ambitions to take care of the mess Mamah left behind.

    It was so hard for me to remember that this book took place in the early 1900's due to the talk of the feminist movement although that's when women were in the thick of it. I suppose that I just expected the wording and thoughts to be different from what it is today. Even today there are news reports of the inequality of pay between women and men.

    It's so hard to believe the scorn Frank and Mamah went through for the choices they made even though there are still news reports in current time when famous people commit adultery. I think it's just much more common place and people aren't so surprised when it happens AND there are more than just one famous person to bear the burnt of the press.

    So many people are only worried about themselves. Unfortunately we are a society with an "all about me" attitude.

    I thought the book was very well written and I since I knew very little about Frank Lloyd Wright and nothing about Mamah, I'm glad I listened to this book. The narrator was fantastic.

    I cannot fault Mamah and Frank for wanting love, but it came at the expense of their children and therefore, I have no respect for them.

    I think it's terrible how the story of Mamah ends. I'll not give anything away.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Jester 06-12-09
    Mary Jester 06-12-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Interesting Historic Fiction"

    I went to Falling Water a couple of years ago, but learned much more about Frank Lloyd Right by reading this book than I did on the tour. A bit slow at times, but that's forgivable since the author was sticking as close to the "facts" as she could. Shocking ending.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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