#134 ~ Loving Frank

January 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Reading | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

cover-of-loving-frank
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

In search of a home of his own, Mr. Edwin Cheney of Chicago convinced his wife Mamah to agree to commissioning a local American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, to design and build their family home. Mr. Cheney gained his house, but he couldn’t have known that he would ultimately lose his wife to the architect. Loving Frank tells the story of the love affair of Mamah and Frank from Mamah’s perspective. Mamah’s decision to leave the husband for which she never had any passion cost her as well. In her time, adulterous women lost custody of their children and their reputations to boot. Her story is one of heartache, sensuality, and the discovery of who she is and who she wants to be.

Loving Frank reads like a story out of 19th feminist literature like The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In so many ways, unfortunately, Mamah is the embodiment of Edna Pontellier. She finds her self dissatisfied with domestic life and agonizes over the realization that she really knew beforehand that she shouldn’t have married Edwin. Although he respects her father and cares for her family, he is not a creative soul. Frank Lloyd Wright is. As he, too, has grown unhappy in his own marriage, it’s only a matter of time before the two begin an affair. After leaving her family to run away with her lover, she comes face to face with the reality of living with Frank. Frank may be a man of vision, but he is all too human. He has deep character flaws that cause her distress and embarrassment. The guilt of leaving her children and the ill effects of being under the harsh spotlight of a the scandal loving media start to take their tole. It is only after attending a speech by Ellen Key, a feminist writer famous in Europe, that she starts to understand that the secret to her own happiness and fulfillment can come from no place but within herself.

Mamah and Frank are both self-centric people and are often unlikable. They both want the fairytale life, but tend to whine when it isn’t handed to them on a silver platter. Although he thought of Mamah as his intellectual equal, Frank was dismayed repetitively when she wanted to leave his side to pursue her own goals. Mamah continually found it difficult to love Frank through his human weaknesses. They both wanted nothing more than to express their creativity. Neither really cared to get their hands messy with the work of keeping relationships together. Had fate not intervened in the end, it seems doubtful that their relationship could have survived after the drama created by their scandalous relationship died down.

This review was difficult to write. I enjoyed Loving Frank , despite the fact that portions of the novel seemed long and dry. Given their personalities, it was often difficult to sympathize with Mamah and Frank. That being said, to enjoy a novel, it is not necessary to like the main characters. Lolita is one of my favorite novels, but I do not like nor agree with Humbert Humbert. The exploration of feminism in the early 2oth century through Mamah’s growth as a woman was very interesting. In that day and time, a woman lost her place as mother when she willingly gave up her place as wife. For women with children, personal freedom came at a huge cost. As the narrative tended to wander off course in some areas and then the author included too many unnecessary details in other, there were loose ends that were not tied up in the end. What could have been a brilliant, emotional and powerful conclusion to Mamah and Frank’s story fizzled. I would still recommend this novel, most especially for a class about early feminist literature. Although this is a work of historical fiction, it would provide the perspective of a woman living in America at the time.

*******

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10 Comments »

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  1. Great review…I like how you discussed the story’s connection to feminism.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this review. While I have no free time to add another book to my current TBR pile, I will add Loving Frank to my list of possible summer reads (along with Lolita!)

  3. I enjoyed this book, but I got very frustrated with Mamah. I agree with you that it did drag at times, though.

  4. It is a bit long and dry and that is probably why I have not finished it yet.

    I loved Lolita and agree with what you said about Humbert. Have you seen the original film version of Lolita? John Mason makes him almost likable.

  5. This does sound interesting, even if it fizzled at the end a bit.
    Great review. I do remember reading The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening is one of my favorites.

  6. I’ve been reading books that have steered to the direction of a troubled marriage. The memory Keeper’s Daughter has a subplot, and now Revolutionary Road. I would eventually check this one out.

  7. [...] from a woman who is not their wife.  This theme came up most recently for me while reading Loving Frank.  Human beings are flawed.  While I don’t condone cheating on anyone, the world is big and [...]

  8. Hi Jennifer, I wrote about my book club’s discussion of Loving Frank back in August. We had a lot of the same responses to it that you seem to have had. Here’s the link if you want to take a look- there were a number of interesting comments, too.

    http://lisamm.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/book-club-wrap-up-loving-frank-by-nancy-horan/

  9. Great review – I have The Awakening on my tbr for this year.

  10. Thanks for the review– were other readers interested in how the end was such a surprise? The lack of foreshadowing was interesting to me and I wondered what others thought


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