Loving Frank

A Novel

Horan, Nancy

Book - 2007
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Loving Frank
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

Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, c2007
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780345494993
Branch Call Number: FICTION HORAN
Characteristics: 362 p. ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

Fact and fiction blend in a historical novel that chronicles the relationship between seminal architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, from their meeting, when they were each married to another, to the clandestine affair that shocked Chicago society.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jul 08, 2014
  • lbarkema rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Meh. I expected a lot more from this, but it was mostly just boring (expect for the last bit) and the two main characters Mamah and Frank were incredibly unlikable. Horan writes well, but the content and characters ruined it for me. I can't say I would really recommend it to anyone.

Mar 05, 2014
  • becker rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

It took me awhile to get invested in this book but I became more and more interested as it went along. A very character driven story. It's not often I enjoy a book despite the fact that I really disliked both of the primary characters.

Sep 09, 2013
  • blolo rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Really, really boring. Very light on plot, and way too heavy on fictional internal thoughts. The main character is endlessly selfish. It seemed to me like 300 pages of apologetics for cheating on your spouse, abandoning your children for years at a time and expecting others to pick up the pieces for you. I was disappointed, as other books I've read in this "genre" - if you can call fictional accounts of famous men's wives a genre! - have been fabulous.

Aug 12, 2013
  • BugLady1 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Good book, but VERY LONG. I love historical fiction and this tale was intriguing. Interesting insight into the private side of the characters. I have to say though, I was disappointed in the ending. For a book that was so long, it seemed to end too abruptly. Although I was aware of the historical outcome, it just seemed to leave me needing more at the end. Overall a good book leaving much to discuss with other readers.

Jun 17, 2013
  • WVMLBookClubTitles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Loving Frank is the fictionalized account of the affair between renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a client who, with her husband Edwin, had commissioned Wright to design a house. The novel explores and embellishes the intriguing facts: in 1909 Wright and Cheney each left their spouses and children and embarked together for Europe; they moved back to the US amidst media frenzy and built the “Taliesin” house in Wisconsin; in 1914, truth being stranger than fiction, the story ended abruptly when Mamah, her two visiting children and several others were murdered by a disgruntled, mentally unstable employee. The novel is also a fascinating glimpse into some of the radical ideas of the intellectual community at the turn of the century. Being based on real people, the plot is somewhat bound by the facts. But the facts present a rich and fascinating array of questions concerning freedom, responsibility, morality, self-actualization, and the pursuit of artistic vision.

Dec 06, 2012
  • hiking1957 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

This was an interesting story but I found it sad in many ways. Definitely wouldn't be a big deal om this day and age but I can imagine that it was quite the scandal then. I have to admit that I really didn't like any of the characters though. I was very disappointed by their actions and just really didn't care for any of them. I was surprised at the ending. Sure didn't see that coming.

Nov 07, 2012
  • Philla15 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

So many people recommended this book to me and yet I was slightly disappointed. My disappointment stems from the fact that I did not like either the character of Frank nor his paramour. They were selfish and hurt others withour care. What is interesting is that the story was based on fact. I was facinated by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and read up on his history and achievements having read the book.

Oct 16, 2012
  • spacecat rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A well-researched account of Frank Lloyd Wright's early career in Oak Park, Illinois and then Wisconsin. His affair with a married woman with children was scandalous at that time. Mamah Borthwick was a fascinating early 20th century feminist, who learned Swedish so that she could translate the works of Ellen Key for an English speaking audience.
However, this book is far too long, and full of countless wearying details that really could have been left out without harming the tale. The author has done a good job of filling in the missing pieces in the history with plausible reconstructions, but. . . where was the professional copyeditor to say " Nancy, cut this down by at least 100 pages" ? Too long and it makes the book a bit tedious to read, despite the gripping true story.

Aug 07, 2012
  • ambic05 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Interesting and enjoyable read, our bookclub loved it.

Mar 15, 2012
  • ehbooklover rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A fictionalized account of the clandestine love affair between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. The book highlights the early struggles of the feminist movement and is full of realistic and wonderfully flawed characters. As a fan of Wright's designs, I loved reading about the construction of Taliesin.

View All Comments


Add a Notice

Oct 16, 2012
  • spacecat rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Violence: Children are burned alive in a burning house, with their father diggin with his bare hands later for their charred remains.

Jul 22, 2008
  • Veronica Martin rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Violence: There is a scene of graphic violence in the book.


Add Age Suitability

May 05, 2011
  • Nyliram rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Nyliram thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary

Fact and fiction blend in a historical novel that chronicles the relationship between seminal architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, from their meeting in Oak Park, Illinois, when they were each married to another, to the clandestine affair that shocked Chicago society. 377p.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Find it at MCL