Frank Lloyd Wright's life was one long, howling struggle against the bonds of convention, whether aesthetic, social, moral, or romantic. He never did what was expected, and he never let anything get in the way of his larger-than-life appetites and visions.
Told through the experiences of the four women who loved him, this imaginative account of Wright's raucous life blazes with Boyle's trademark wit and invention. Boyle's protean voice captures these very different women and, in doing so, creates a masterful ode to the creative life in all its complexity and grandeur.
©2009 T. Coraghessan Boyle; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"America's most imaginative contemporary novelist." (Newsweek)
"One of the most inventive and verbally exuberant writers of his generation." (New York Times)
“The author is a master storyteller who takes literary license but never loses sight of his subject's humanity. Narrator Grover Gardner has a deep nasal tone that, remarkably, sounds like an old radio broadcaster's voice. This fits the mood of the book perfectly since the story takes place in the 1930s.” (AudioFile)
While I generally enjoy Boyle's writing and Gardner is a very good reader, this book just doesn't work for me, for several reasons. The book is organized in reverse order, so we start with Wright's last (third) wife Olgivanna, then a section on his second wife Miriam and then a third section about his mistress Mamah, while Wright was married to his first wife Kitty. By the time I finished the section on Olgivanna, I knew as much as I wanted to about Miriam and couldn't finish the second section, so I skipped to section 3. What was the rationale for organizing the book this way? I think it detracts, rather than adds, to the story.
I have an issue with the narrator, who is supposedly one of Wright's apprentices. I realize this is a work of fiction, but Wright and Olgivanna were married in 1927 or 1928 and the apprenticeship program did not begin until 1932. Thus there's some contradiction between actual and fictional events, but I can handle that. What's more problematic is that so many events in the book occurred before the narrator arrived on the scene. His "involvement" in the later sections of the book is minimal, as you might expect, which then begs the question: why use this narrator at all?
If you enjoy listening to Boyle, you'll probably like this -- I really enjoyed the first section of the book. Then it got tedious, and overall, just a little too long for me (even skipping most of section 2).
So in a book about an architect (or rather around said architect's muses), I spent more time pondering the architure of the book itself than I might typically -- not because of the profession of the man, but because the structure of the book is questionable, and only after completing it did I realized why Boyle made the choices he did.Yet to have a reader wondering midstream why the author is choosing a weird chronology is akin to wondering why an Architect walks you into a bedroom before the kitchen.
2 quick things - I've never been a huge Boyle fan, I think because I've always felt a bit of authorial disdain when it comes to his character treatment, and less focus on characters than on other elements of his novels. In this novel I appreciated Boyle's care of and for all of his subjects, and the depth in which they are rendered is appreciated.
I'm of a generation that knows who Frank Lloyd Wright is, knows his clean/modern lines but little else about his chaotic life. This isn't the book to educate a reader about his work, but it's a book with enough narrative pull that it creates the desire in someone like me to know more about the work that the character in the novel created, which I also think is a huge compliment to the author.
Because I had no knowledge of Wright's personal life, I was not able to guess in advance why Boyle started with the fourth woman, moved to the third, interjected the first occasionally and closed the book with the fourth until the dramatic, murder-capped denouement. Of course Woman #2's Demise was too dramatic to insert into the middle of the book! But the very fact that I wondered, to me indicates Boyle wasn't quite successful in "arting" around the reordering of the women and the life. Valiant effort though- inserting a distinct narrator (Japanese architecture student) for much of the book helped deflect musings about chronology, but not defeat them.
Frank Lloyd Wright is well known for setting new standards in architectural design. This book tells of how he pushed the envelope on social and even moral issues of his time - mistresses, divorces, equality of the sexes and races... The narrative is told by one of his apprentices in a very unique third party tale whose chronology jumps back and forth.
I'm a voracious reader who unfortunately spends a lot of time on the road. Audiobooks make my life a lot better.
I think it is important that this is the ONLY audiobook to which I stopped listening after only an hour and never went back to. It just didn't seem that interesting. I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone else -- maybe it's because I'm a fiction geek for the most part, and reality just doesn't interest me as much. Maybe I'll try it again later, but I cannot recommend this book.
Even though I felt like Frank Lloyd Wright was an opportunist and his outright abuse of the women and people in his life, the story was compelling enough to keep listening to the book.
Yes, I would. He is so descriptive in his story line and he drew you into the story.
I think he made the book much easier to follow than if I had been reading it. I can see where reading the book would have been much more difficult to follow. Mr Gardner was an extraordinary narrator in his performance. I would definitely want to listen to other books narrated by him.
When he was in China and his paramour for the moment left him and traveled into the mountains to get away from Frank. Then the letter writing back and forth between the two and then Mr. Wright showing up on her doorstep, and the two spending some time together alone before they went back to Hong Kong. He had an uncanny way of always getting his way.
Anyone interested in this book, I would recommend they listen to it rather than read it.
The only thing I liked about this book was that I learned a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work. Unfortunately, he comes across as a modern day U.S. Congressman with his "I do what I want" attitude about life and especially women. Frank's women all come across as whiney and manipulative. I also did not like that the book is told from the last wife forward. At times it was difficult to follow. This was complicated by the footnotes being read in the text giving the book as feel of backtracking even more. While this footnote information was generally educational, it disrupted the flow of the book. I could barely finish this listen and wouldn't except that I needed something to entertain me on a really long road trip! Don't bother!
Say something about yourself!
It is a testament to Boyle's ability to breathe fictional life into these true-life characters--and that I despised one of them so. Like Diane, from VA, I really struggled through the middle section. Miriam Wright was, without a doubt, a detestable, self-centered, sadistic, mentally unstable, and narcissistic woman. Reading aout her attacks on Wright's last misstress was very difficult.
Boyle brings her to such life that I was pretty much cringing throughout her section. I kept thinking, "How could such a brilliant guy get so manipulated?" Then again, all of Wright's own narcissism and ego is on brilliant display.
Not an easy book to read, but, as with all Boyle's work, an accomplishment. If you like your literature on the soft side, don't brave this one. If you are into well-written prose and intricatly depicted (but unpleasant) characters, then go for this one!
Nothing works. The device of the narrator--a fictitious FLW apprentice--falters and seems all but abandoned in the latter third; an inordinate and painful amount of the book is devoted to Miriam, the enraged, drug-addicted, vindictive second wife; all the characters are painted as deluded, selfish and manipulative. The story is told backwards for no discernible reason. I've listened to two other TC Boyle novels that are based on real stories. This is the least satisfying.
The problem with this book is that there was really only one interesting thing that happened relative to Wright's love life, and you have to wade through the tedium of the rest of the book to get to it. SO not worth the journey to get there.
PAtti Smith "M Train"
The subject Frank Lloyd Wright is a complex, fascinating genius. It would have been good to have a nuanced book about him.
I almost always finish books--not this one.I gave up out of annoyance.
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