Mamah Borthwick

“Loving Frank: A Novel” (Nancy Horan)

In her debut novel, Loving Frank, Nancy Horan delves into the private world of Frank Lloyd Wright and his ongoing love affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney.

The affair was scandalous, mainly because they were both married, just not to each other, when the affair began. Borthwick was married to Edwin Cheney, a great follower of Wright’s architectural skill. He encouraged his wife to agree to having a home built by Wright…a decision I’m sure he regretted for the rest of his life.

Mamah Borthwick was not the average turn of the (twentieth) century woman. She was a feminist and lived her life as true to her feminist ideals as possible, even at the expense of others. She did not make her decisions lightly, nor without great remorse, but she remained true to herself.

While I disagreed with many of her life choices, I also struggled to balance those same choices with the struggles every woman faced in the early 1900s. She was a suffragist, yet wanted much more for women than voting rights and equal pay. She wanted freedom for all women.

I strongly recommend this book. I found I could not put it down, even when I was disgusted or irritated with Borthwick throughout the story. The fact that Horan, the author, strove to weave the fabric of her story as close to the truth as she could discover, only made it more interesting.

I think the Chicago Tribune’s review sums the book up perfectly:

“An impressive and admirable debut…If FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT is the reason people will pick up this book, MAMAH BORTHWICK is the reason they will keep reading it….”

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