Loving Frank is the first novel by journalist and author Nancy Horan. It tells the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who carried on a long love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. This was a public scandal in the Chicago of the early 1900’s. Frank and Mamah left their families and traveled extensively through Europe before settling in at Wright’s Wisconsin farm and estate, Taliesen.
This historical novel tells the story through Mamah’s eyes. Little is known of Mamah, and much that is written of her is fiction. The events of Wright’s life are well-documented, as are the inspirations for his architectural genius. Horan lived for many years in Oak Park, Illinois, the Chicago suburb where many of Wright’s early designs were built, including the home of Mamah and Edwin Cheney. Horan has a good feel for the community of Oak Park, and what it would have been like 100 years ago when the prairie ended just outside Chicago.
In this day and age, the idea of a major scandal erupting when two private individuals begin an affair seems quaint. But the Cheney/Wright drama was fodder for the yellow press for years. I visited Taliesen six years ago, and Mamah Borthwick was never mentioned on the tour. I imagine that now, with the popularity of Loving Frank, that is no longer the case.
While I suspect this is more fiction and less history, it’s great to read historical fiction from the twentieth century. I enjoyed reading Loving Frank, and I do recommend it.
Published in hardcover-Random House-2007
Softcover edition-Ballantine Books-2008