on 14 April 2012
A very well written book, which is a fascinating read. The only problem is, that as I progressed through the book, I hated Frank Lloyd Wright more and more. What an odious, self-absorbed, pompous and arrogant man he was. His choice of women wasn't much better. However, well worth reading for all of that.
I can't help thinking that he took all of the credit for a lot of 'his' well known designs, but which his apprentices came up with!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This novel mainly concerns the women in the life of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his three wives (Kitty, Miriam and Olgivanna) and his mistress (Mamah Cheney). Since all these were real people, we are dealing here with fiction based on fact and separating the two is not easy. The author reports what these people say to each other and also takes us inside their minds, so the book is best regarded as fiction however much research he has done.
The events of Wright's love life are not given in chronological order, but start towards the end and move backwards in time till we finally meet his first wife, Kitty, mother of his six children. The main virtue of this arrangement is that the author places the murder of seven people, including Mamah and her two children, towards the end of the book, where it has the effect of a culmination. The motivation for the murders is well done, though total invention on the author's part because in real life the murderer, Julian Carleton, made no attempt to explain his actions.
So what of the women? Wright's first wife, Kitty, married young and lived to regret it, since Wright left her and her children to take up with Mamah Cheney. Not only did he leave her, he left his family with no visible means of support, unpaid bills, and a prurient press besieging her in her house. Kitty appears to have been a blameless woman with much to be said for her who was grossly put upon by her husband.
Moving on to Mamah, we have a woman who also left her children. She was much influenced by the Swedish writer, Ellen Key (whom she translated into English), and Ellen and Mamah both believed in fulfilment through love. She, too, was hounded by the press and decided to fight her corner by inviting them to what we would now call a press conference. By the author's account, this worked reasonably well until one journalist asked about the children, who had been not only been deserted by her but, as if that wasn't bad enough, at Christmas.
And coming in third we have Miriam (Maude Miriam Noel). Miriam first contacts Wright by letter, expressing her sympathy for the murders at his house, Taliesin, much of which was burned down by Carleton. Miriam was addicted to morphine though, as I read the book, her addiction was not the cause of her problems with Wright.
As described in this book, Miriam has to be one of the most manipulative individuals ever to have drawn breath. This is apparent not only in the way she sets out to snare Wright (fellow artistic spirits and all that) but also, after the split, in her remorseless recourse to the law to harass Wright and his mistress then last wife, Olgivanna. (Some of the laws she uses and/or attempts to use, seem so ludicrous it is hard to understand how they ever got on the statute book: to take but one example, Alienation of Affection).
Wright's fourth woman and third wife, Olgivanna, comes across as a serious-minded person of little interest to anyone with the obvious exception of Wright himself, and also her daughter Svetlana.
Wright himself always puts his own interests first, unless external events prevent him, is adept at spending other people's money, and should have thought twice before having children. Taking these people and events together, this not an uplifting tale.
The book is very well written, though there is a creaking apparatus involving a fictional Japanese student, Tadashi Sato who, we are supposed to believe, is the narrator. A fictional translator, Seamus O'Flaherty, is provided to assist Mr Sato in his endeavours. As part of this apparatus, many footnotes are appended. This will work well if you have a real book in your hands, but using a Kindle I could find no easy way of accessing them.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2009
T.C Boyle's book "The Women" is an interesting book, I am a great admirer of Frank Lloyd Wrights work. However I find the book confusing at times and the persons stays relatively anonymous.It did lead me to Nancy Horans book "Loving Frank" though which is about Mamie, Franks Big Love, the books reads well together!