Ballantine, 2007 (2007)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
amah Borthwick Cheney, who narrates
, shares with readers her love affair with legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, both of them married to others at the time, and both with small children. In 1903, Mamah and her husband Edwin commissioned the architect to design a home for them, leading to regular meetings between Mamah and Frank and their growing realization that each supplied a key element missing from the other's life. They finally left their spouses and spent time together in exile in Europe before Wright built a house for them,
, surrounded by farmers and family in Wisconsin.
hough it's well known that Wright was ahead of his time as an architect, Nancy Horan makes clear that his intellectual lover, Mamah Borthwick, was also ahead of her time as a feminist (she was strongly influenced by Swedish philosopher Ellen Key, whose works Mamah translated, wanting Key's teachings on women's rights and free love to reach women in the United States). Horan's depiction of Frank and Mamah's life together comes across as one of the great romances of the ages, almost an Abelard and Heloise relationship (with an equally shocking ending), whose strength and passion overruled all considerations for the opinions of others - close family members, children, and society at large. Though they were misrepresented - and regularly crucified - by the press, they lived '
frankly and sincerely
' according to their own beliefs, each following their art, and holding together to '
Truth against the world.
ancy Horan empathetically portrays Mamah and Frank as real individuals, each with their own greatness, their own flaws - and regular self doubt. Mamah followed her own sense of self, despite the hurt she caused her small children and the sister who had already sacrificed a great deal for her. Wright is shown as exploiting the allowances that others made for his great talent, and not paying his bills. In one of Mamah's last writings, the author has her say, '
Women are storytellers. It is how we bring one another comfort and illumination
' and speaks of casting '
a little light on someone else's path
'. From the bookcover to the last page of
, Nancy Horan sheds a great deal of light on life and love, feminism and architecture. Her highly recommended novel will linger in the corners of your mind.
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