Loving Frank: A Novel

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Loving Frank: A Novel

by Nancy Horan

Random House Publishing Group | April 8, 2008 | Trade Paperback

Loving Frank: A Novel is rated 3.6667 out of 5 by 6.
I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney’s profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan’s Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah’s is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel’s stunning conclusion.

Elegantly written and remarkably rich in detail, Loving Frank is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman, a national icon, and their timeless love story.

Advance praise for Loving Frank:

Loving Frank is one of those novels that takes over your life. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating–filled with complex characters, deep passions, tactile descriptions of astonishing architecture, and the colorful immediacy of daily life a hundred years ago–all gathered into a story that unfolds with riveting urgency.”
–Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light

“This graceful, assured first novel tells the remarkable story of the long-lived affair between Frank Lloyd Wright, a passionate and impossible figure, and Mamah Cheney, a married woman whom Wright beguiled and led beyond the restraint of convention. It is engrossing, provocative reading.”
——Scott Turow

“It takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.”
——Jane Hamilton

“I admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt she’ll ever leave.”
–Elizabeth Berg


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 pages, 7.98 × 5.12 × 0.82 in

Published: April 8, 2008

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345495004

ISBN - 13: 9780345495006

Found in: Fiction and Literature
Mix a brilliant, attractive and engaging architect – read Frank Lloyd Wright – with a beautiful, intelligent and feeling-trapped housewife and you have the basis for romantic combustion. Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, is the novelized biography of this very affair. In the early 1900’s Frank Lloyd Wright was a confident but still relatively unknown architect. Hired by his good friends, the Cheneys, to design their family home, it isn’t long before Mamah Cheney and Frank are caught up in a steamy affair. So passionate and scandalous is their relationship that they feel compelled to leave their families and run off to Europe. But this is no predictable tawdry affair. Mamah Cheney is the driving force behind this story. As she struggles to reconcile her emotions of guilt and loss along with her intellectual restlessness, Mamah draws us in to her tempestuous relationship with Frank as well as a fascinating relationship with the leading feminist of the day. Eventually, Frank and Mamah settle in Wisconsin. Frank’s brilliance is constantly undermined by his own narcissistic behaviour, both of which influence and shape the life they have together. But there is no doubt about their commitment to each other, nor its endurance until an event too tragic to anticipate brings their relationship to an end. This is Nancy Horan’s first novel and it is an assured and smart debut. The writing is rich and the story beautifully and seamlessly blends both fact and fiction. A truly wonderful and engaging read.

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The cost of loving a genius When Frank fell for Mamah, it was like white lightening - blindingly fast and very public. While it surely shocked Chicago society and damaged Frank Lloyd Wright's reputation, his career was not brought to a standstill. He would go on to create Taliesin the home that would become his standard. And Mamah Borthwick would find her heart in the translation of some of the women's movements greatest words. Nancy Horan has re-created their world so perfectly, that I found myself so completely drawn into it, it is hard to leave. I think this is one of those books that I will remember forever.
Date published: 2013-07-10
Rated out of 5 by from Frustrating but interesting I read this book for a book club meeting. While I admit that, at times, I was frustrated that the book was dragging on, it did keep me interested and towards the end, I could not put it down (but I'm not sure if that was because i wanted to finish reading it quickly). I felt as if the ending hit me like a ton of bricks - I wasn't expecting it at all. Later, I was interested to learn that this story is loosely based on real-life events and like some other reviewers, I was fascinated by Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural work as a result. When I am frustrated by characters in a story, I know that the book was well-written. Not a bad job for a debut novel from an author.
Date published: 2010-05-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing and Frustrating This book was intriguing in the beginning and then about 1/4 of the way in became frustrating and difficult to read. At some points I had to force myself to read the book. There were also points of the book that i was extremely frustrated with the story. I would never read this book again. Buy another book.
Date published: 2010-02-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing! I was expecting to read some interesting information on Frank Lloyd Wright , but what I got was a "romance gone wrong" story. I was shocked by the ending and it precipitated me to read and find out more about Wright.
Date published: 2009-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loving Frank - keeps you reading! It is not often I can read a piece of literature that captures my mind, my senses and my emotions. Although it dragged in places, it was a great read. Loving Frank is more a women's read, but surely an enlightenment as to how and why he built his masterpieces the way he did and where he did. Having visited Chicago recently and fallen in love with the city and its architecture, it was very interesting to read about Wright's personal life. When I ordered this book, I also ordered Devil in the White City, telling the story of the great architects of Chicago. My husband read it and loved it, and I am about to embark on it before my second trip to Chicago next month. These are two great reads for anyone who has thoughts of going to Chicago, for you cannot go to Chicago without knowing some of the architecture, how and why it got there!
Date published: 2009-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Assured and Smart Debut from Nancy Horan - A Truly Engaging Read Mix a brilliant, attractive and engaging architect – read Frank Lloyd Wright – with a beautiful, intelligent and feeling-trapped housewife and you have the basis for romantic combustion. Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, is the novelized biography of this very affair. In the early 1900’s Frank Lloyd Wright was a confident but still relatively unknown architect. Hired by his good friends, the Cheneys, to design their family home, it isn’t long before Mamah Cheney and Frank are caught up in a steamy affair. So passionate and scandalous is their relationship that they feel compelled to leave their families and run off to Europe. But this is no predictable tawdry affair. Mamah Cheney is the driving force behind this story. As she struggles to reconcile her emotions of guilt and loss along with her intellectual restlessness, Mamah draws us in to her tempestuous relationship with Frank as well as a fascinating relationship with the leading feminist of the day. Eventually, Frank and Mamah settle in Wisconsin. Frank’s brilliance is constantly undermined by his own narcissistic behaviour, both of which influence and shape the life they have together. But there is no doubt about their commitment to each other, nor its endurance until an event too tragic to anticipate brings their relationship to an end. This is Nancy Horan’s first novel and it is an assured and smart debut. The writing is rich and the story beautifully and seamlessly blends both fact and fiction. A truly wonderful and engaging read.
Date published: 2007-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best debut novel I have read I gave this debut effort by Nancy Horan a try because of A life long interest in Frank Lloyd Wright. This ambitious work is a fictional accounting of the life of Mamah Cheney. After being hired by Cheney’s husband to design a family home, Wright had a scandalous affair with Mrs. Cheney that wrecked both their marriages. This might seem like the plot of a romance novel, but believe me this book is not a romance novel! Cheney is portrayed as an educated woman struggling with her independence against the conventions of a time period when woman were for bearing children and keeping the home fires burning—to be seen but not heard! Frank and Mamah both leave their respective families to live together and travel the world, then eventually settle in Wisconsin. Wright’s bigger than life personality is adequately displayed by the author, but the real story here is Maham who lost much in her quest for self-realization and also in purusing her love for Wright. Her life is tragically cut short which makes for a difficult ending, still reading about this amazing woman, who was a head of her time makes for fascinating reading.
Date published: 2007-08-12

– More About This Product –

Loving Frank: A Novel

Loving Frank: A Novel

by Nancy Horan

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 400 pages, 7.98 × 5.12 × 0.82 in

Published: April 8, 2008

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345495004

ISBN - 13: 9780345495006

About the Book

"This graceful, assured first novel tells the remarkable story of the long-lived affair between Frank Lloyd Wright, a passionate and impossible figure, and Mamah Cheney, a married woman whom Wright beguiled and led beyond the restraint of convention"--Scott Turow.

Read from the Book

1907Chapter 1••Mamah Cheney sidled up to the Studebaker and put her hand sideways on the crank. She had started the thing a hundred times before, but she still heard Edwin’s words whenever she grabbed on to the handle. Leave your thumb out. If you don’t, the crank can fly back and take your thumb right off. She churned with a fury now, but no sputter came from beneath the car’s hood. Crunching across old snow to the driver’s side, she checked the throttle and ignition, then returned to the handle and cranked again. Still nothing. A few teasing snowflakes floated under her hat rim and onto her face. She studied the sky, then set out from her house on foot toward the library.It was a bitterly cold end-of-March day, and Chicago Avenue was a river of frozen slush. Mamah navigated her way through steaming horse droppings, the hem of her black coat lifted high. Three blocks west, at Oak Park Avenue, she leaped onto the wooden sidewalk and hurried south as the wet snow grew dense.By the time she reached the library, her toes were frozen stumps, and her coat was nearly white. She raced up the steps, then stopped at the door of the lecture hall to catch her breath. Inside, a crowd of women listened intently as the president of the Nineteenth Century Woman’s Club read her introduction.“Is there a woman among us who is not confronted—almost daily—by some choice regarding how to ornament her home?” The president looked over her spectacles at the audience. “Or, dare I say, herself?” Still
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From the Publisher

I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney’s profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan’s Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah’s is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel’s stunning conclusion.

Elegantly written and remarkably rich in detail, Loving Frank is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman, a national icon, and their timeless love story.

Advance praise for Loving Frank:

Loving Frank is one of those novels that takes over your life. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating–filled with complex characters, deep passions, tactile descriptions of astonishing architecture, and the colorful immediacy of daily life a hundred years ago–all gathered into a story that unfolds with riveting urgency.”
–Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light

“This graceful, assured first novel tells the remarkable story of the long-lived affair between Frank Lloyd Wright, a passionate and impossible figure, and Mamah Cheney, a married woman whom Wright beguiled and led beyond the restraint of convention. It is engrossing, provocative reading.”
——Scott Turow

“It takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.”
——Jane Hamilton

“I admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt she’ll ever leave.”
–Elizabeth Berg


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Jacket

Advance praise for Loving Frank

“This graceful, assured first novel tells the remarkable story of the long-lived affair between Frank Lloyd Wright, a passionate and impossible figure, and Mamah Cheney, a married woman whom Wright beguiled and led beyond the restraint of convention. It is engrossing, provocative reading.”
–Scott Turow

“It takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.”
–Jane Hamilton

“I admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt she’ll ever leave.”
–Elizabeth Berg

“Loving Frank is one of those novels that takes over your life. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating–filled with complex characters, deep passions, tactile descriptions of astonishing architecture, and the colorful immediacy of daily life a hundred years ago–all gathered into a story that unfolds with riveting urgency.”
–Lauren Belfer


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Nancy Horan, a former journalist and longtime resident of Oak Park, Illinois, now lives and writes on an island in Puget Sound.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Advance praise for Loving Frank

“This graceful, assured first novel tells the remarkable story of the long-lived affair between Frank Lloyd Wright, a passionate and impossible figure, and Mamah Cheney, a married woman whom Wright beguiled and led beyond the restraint of convention. It is engrossing, provocative reading.”
–Scott Turow

“It takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.”
–Jane Hamilton

“I admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt she’ll ever leave.”
–Elizabeth Berg

“Loving Frank is one of those novels that takes over your life. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating–filled with complex characters, deep passions, tactile descriptions of astonishing architecture, and the colorful immediacy of daily life a hundred years ago–all gathered into a story that unfolds with riveting urgency.”
–Lauren Belfer


From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Do you think that Mamah is right to leave her husband and children in order to pursue her personal growth and the relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright? Is she being selfish to put her own happiness and fulfillment first?

2. Why do you think the author, Nancy Horan, gave her novel the title Loving Frank? Does this title work against the feminist message of the novel? Is there a feminist message?

3. Do you think that a woman today who made the choices that Mamah makes would receive a more sympathetic or understanding hearing from the media and the general public?

4. If Mamah were alive today, would she be satisfied with the progress women have achieved or would she believe there was still a long way to go?

5. In Sonnet 116, Shakespeare writes, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments. Love is not love/That alters where it alteration finds. .." How does the relationship of Mamah and Frank bear out the sentiments of Shakespeare’s sonnet? What other famous love matches fill the bill?

6. Is Mamah’s story relevant to the women of today?

7. Is Frank Lloyd Wright an admirable figure in this novel? Would it change your opinion of him to know that he married twice more in his life?

8. What about Edwin Cheney, Mamah’s husband? Did he behave as you might have expected after learning of the affair between his wife and Wright?

9. Edwin’s philosophy of life and love might be summed up in the following words from the novel: "Tell her happiness is just practice. If she acted happy, she would be happy." Do you agree or disagree with this philosophy?

10. "Carved over Wright's fireplace in his Oak Park home are the words "Life is Truth." What do you think these words mean, and do Frank and Mamah live up to them?

11. Why do you think Horan chose to give her novel the epigraph from Goethe, "One lives but once in the world."?

12. When Mamah confesses her affair to her friend Mattie, Mattie demands, "What about duty? What about honor?" Discuss some of the different meanings that characters in the novel attach to these two words.

13. In analyzing the failure of the women’s movement to make more progress, Mamah says, "Yet women are part of the problem. We plan dinner parties and make flowers out of crepe paper. Too many of us make small lives for ourselves." Was this a valid criticism at the time, and is it one today?

14. Why does seeing a performance of the opera Mefistofele affect Mamah so strongly?

15. Why is Mamah's friendship with Else Lasker Schuler important in the book?

16. Ellen Key, the Swedish feminist whose work so profoundly influences Mamah, states at one point, "The very legitimate right of a free love can never be acceptable if it is enjoyed at the expense of maternal love." Do you agree?

17. Another of Ellen Key’s beliefs was that motherhood should be recompensed by the state. Do you think an idea like this could ever catch on in America? Why or why not?

18. Is there anything that Frank and Mamah could have done differently after their return to America that would have ameliorated the harsh welcome they received from the press? Have things changed very much in that regard today?

19. What part did racism play in Julian Carlton’s crime? Were his actions the product of pure insanity, or was he goaded into violence?