Tag Archives: Frank Lloyd Wright

My Great Reads 2010

I started 2010 out with the ambition of reading 100 books this year. Like all great plans mine was waylaid by the exigencies of life. I did, however, still manage to read some great books.

My top reads this year are:
1. My absolute favourite read this year is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – a great literary read that uses an interesting cultural device to tell an expansive and wonderful story.

2. Brief Interviews with Hideous MenDavid Foster Wallace – Wow, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. It’s very literary but it breaks free from the usual storytelling devices and then on top of that it contains some really amazing stories. It’s changed the way I believe people can write about things.

3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery – This is just a wonderful read. Written by a French writer it explores unlikely friendships within the quagmire of the French class system. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to read it again.

4. infidel Ayaan Hirsi Ali – I don’t read very much non-fiction but I thought this offered a glimpse into a world I know very little about. It makes me want to know more about women and Islam.

5. Freedom Jonathan Franzen – Because he tells a great story that speaks to our times. And he gets bonus points for making me laugh.

6. Loving Frank – Nancy Horan – A great story about Frank Lloyd Wright‘s lover Martha Borthwick. It’s one of those books you can’t put down.

7. Room – Emma Donaghue – Well there’s no question that this is a creepy story about a woman who gives birth to a little boy while she is enslaved in a small room for seven years, but wow does Emma Donoghue ever create a singularly believable voice for young Jack.

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer – I’m a sucker for any books on war and this one is a great read. I’m now eager to travel to Guernsey now that I know it exists.

9. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – I completely immersed myself in Ms. Austen’s world when I was reading this. What a testament to the durability of great literature.

10. Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Album – Because this book helped me understand dying better and that’s something I needed to learn about this year.

I’m starting next year’s list which includes:
Irshad Manji – The Trouble with Islam Today
Sea Sick – The Global Ocean in Crisis
Malcolm Gladwell – Blink and What the Dog Saw

I would love to hear from others any recommendations you might have for fiction or non-fiction that I can put on my ‘must read’ list.




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Loving Frank: Nancy Horan Book Review

I don’t usually read historic fiction but I picked this up as a recommendation from my sister. Nancy Horan is a writer and journalist who spent most of her life in Oak Park, Illinois, where Frank Lloyd Wright had lived for many years and created a notable architectural legacy. As she became interested in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life she learned of his love affair with Martha (Mamah) Borthwick Cheney, the wife of one of his clients, with whom he had  run off to Europe, leaving behind 8 children between the two families.

Although a great deal is known of Frank Lloyd Wright, very little was known of Mamah Cheney.  Horan had done quite a bit of research with secondary resources, but she  was able to more fully flesh out Mamah Borthwick’s character when several of her letters were found.

What Nancy Horan delivers is a very even- handed and beautifully compelling story of the love between two people, who defy social convention so that they may be together.

Under Horan’s expert hand  Mamah Borthwick comes to life as a very conflicted, passionate and intellectual woman who follows her heart.  A highly educated feminist  who speaks several languages, she is in every way an intellectual match for the eccentric, brilliant and egotistical Frank Lloyd Wright.

While women today have many opportunities that Mameh couldn’t possibly have imagined, the feminist dilemna that frames this story is still very relevant today. How do you balance your own intellectual and emotional needs with a happy and fulfilling family life? Can you follow your emotional and intellectual dreams and be happy in family life? Is it moral and right to stay in a loveless marriage for the ‘sake’ of the children? Can you be a good parent if you’re not personally fulfilled? Should children come first? These are all questions that Mameh faced each and every day of her life and which hounded her both publically in the  press and privately.

Yet, she remained true to herself and to a love that she felt was one of the only authentic things in life. She struggled daily with her choices and yet you don’t imagine for one moment that she could have lived her life any other way.  This is a compelling but difficult story.

The bonus in this book, is of course, that the man she has fallen in love with is Frank Lloyd Wright and the book fleshes out his character and the life and times that fuelled his vision of form. He was a difficult guy to love. Egotistical, brilliant, flamboyant, a terrible businessman who rarely paid his bills on time, he was selfish and driven. But he had a remarkable vision of beauty and form that changed the course of American architecture.  And  he also loved Mameh Borthwick with his heart and soul.

” Mamah and I have had our struggles , our differences our moments of jealous fear for our ideals of each other – they are not lacking in any close human relationship – but they served only to bind us more closely together. We were more than merely happy even when momentarily miserable…Her soul has entered mine and it shall not be lost.”

When great art and great love forms itself against convention there is a price to pay and the price is often steep.  In this kind of tale, it seems to me, there is no right and wrong although society certainly does/did its fair share of condemnation. I think Mamah Borthwick made some very tough choices for which she paid dearly. But she lived a life that was authentic to herself.  I thought this was a really interesting book that is as relevant to women’s issues  today as it was during Mamah Borthwick’s time. Nancy Horan brought to life a remarkable man and woman and their love story.

Nancy Horan has a web site that is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to know more about the characters or how the book came to be written. http://www.nancyhoran.com/

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