Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Tessa Bright Wildsmith

Loving Frank is an historical fiction novel about Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress, Mamah. Since I knew little of the relationship between the famed architect and his mistress, this was a stunning, moving story for me.

In early 1900s Chicago, Mamah Borthwick Cheney and her husband, Edwin, hire Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new home for them. As the house is being built, a bond forms between Mamah and Frank. Both are married with families, but both feel misunderstood and out of place in their lives. They find a deep connection and love in one another.

I found Mamah to be a strong, independent woman for her time. Mamah was very involved in the early movements of feminism. She yearned for the freedom women today enjoy. At the same time, I didn’t understand some of her actions. When you looked at her as a mother, she did things that I couldn’t comprehend.

Frank was portrayed as eccentric and erratic. Mamah put up with things from him that I can’t imagine an independent woman putting up with. Maybe that’s the difference in the 1900s and today – what went on in relationships in the early 1900s were no doubt very different when compared to modern day. Or perhaps Mamah was so moved by his genius that she put up with all the other things that came along with it.

“Loving Frank” was moving and engrossing. Horan pulled me into this love-torn story, and I found myself staying up late at night to keep reading. Horan’s writing kept a steady pace, and her characters were true and thoughtful. The little insights kept me reading even when I had major disagreements with Mamah and Frank’s actions.

The events that took place at Taliesin, the home Frank built for Mamah, were probably the most shocking and heart-wrenching of the book. If I had known more about the history before I started reading, it may not have come as quite the shock. As it was, I knew nothing and found myself weeping late at night as I turned the final few pages of book.

The story is dotted with actual newspaper headlines and clippings from early 1900s Chicago. I thought this added a neat historical insight into what Mamah’s life must have been like as she rocked Chicago society with her choice to be with Frank instead of doing what was thought of as proper.

“Loving Frank” is a fascinating story. It’s full of passion and heartbreak and left me thinking about their lives long after I had finished the novel. Horan’s detailed research and storytelling brought to life a true-life love story with vibrant unforgettable characters.

Have you read “Loving Frank?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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