I made a mistake. It all started when Talia, my daughter, and I took a trip to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s B. Harley Bradley house in Kankakee, Illinois. Once home, Talia and I told Dan all about our trip and our tour of the home. As part of our dinner conversation, we debated to what extent Frank Lloyd Wright was a scoundrel. You know, given what we learned about him on our trip.
Wanting to know more about his personality, I requested the book, “My Father, Frank Lloyd Wright” by John Lloyd Wright. This book was highly recommended by Susan, our tour guide at the B. Harley Bradley House.
However, instead of the book by John Lloyd Wright, I messed up and somehow got the book, “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan. Since I didn’t ask myself, “Is this the book I requested?” until after I got home from the library, I decided to go ahead and read it.
This book was published in 2007, and it became a New York Times Best Seller. This post, which is not a review, simply captures some of my thoughts after reading this powerful and insightful historical fiction novel.
While Talia and I were on our tour, at some point, our guide mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright having run off to Europe with the wife of a client. I think my reaction was a bit of a snicker, and an “Oh, brother” thought in my mind. But after reading this book, I have a different reaction. I see their humanness now. The book doesn’t exonerate them. Rather, it simply gives a voice to their story and how their story played out for them and for others. While “Loving Frank” is fiction, it was very thoroughly researched. In fact, it took seven years to write.
So now, instead of an “Oh, brother”, I have a detailed understanding of the events involved, and maybe more importantly, some understanding of the characters involved and what they went through. Those characters include Frank and Mamah, but it also includes how it played out for their spouses, their children, their family, and their colleagues.
While my understanding is built from a book classified as fiction, the understanding does provide a depth and a compassion for all involved that wasn’t there before. And should I ever visit Oak Park, Illinois, again, I will see so much more when looking at the Edwin H. Cheney house.
This book was written with the focus on Mamah Borthwick Cheney. She, of course, was the other half of the affair and an important part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life during those years. The affair was quite a scandal at the time. It was headline news. They were bothered many times by reporters who focused on their personal lives. At one point, a frustrated Frank Lloyd Wright told the reporters, “It will be a misfortune if the world decides not to receive what I have to give.”
Even after finishing this book, I want to know more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s personality. I still plan to read “My Father, Frank Lloyd Wright” by John Lloyd Wright. Frank also wrote his autobiography which was published in 1932. It is curious to me, that in his own autobiography, he only gave a brief accounting of Mamah and his relationship with her.
At first, I thought maybe he was kind of trying to protect her and to ensure her privacy even in history. Perhaps he deemed other events in his life to have played a more important role in his life than the events with Mamah. Maybe some of the details faded by the time he wrote his autobiography.
However, when I think of his comment, noted above, to the press promoting the idea that his architectural talent was so much larger than the scandal at hand, I have a different thought. I wonder if his omission of details was more about his desire to be known for his architectural contributions rather than to be defined by the scandal of his affair and the tragedy that ended it.
It’s only a guess. What I do know is this book is a good read, and I am not the same, but better for having read it.