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by T.C. Boyle,Grover Gardner

Frank Lloyd Wright s life was one long, howling struggle against the bonds of convention, whether aesthetic, social, moral, or romantic. He never did what was expected, and he never let anything get in the way of his larger-than-life appetites and visions. Told through the experiences of the four women who loved him, this imaginative account of Wright s raucous life blazes with Boyle s trademark wit and invention. Boyle s protean voice captures these very different women and, in doing so, creates a masterful ode to the creative life in all its complexity and grandeur.
Download The Women: A Novel epub
ISBN: 1433260638
ISBN13: 978-1433260636
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Genre Fiction
Author: T.C. Boyle,Grover Gardner
Language: English
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.; Unabridged edition (February 10, 2009)
ePUB size: 1940 kb
FB2 size: 1905 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 480
Other Formats: lrf doc rtf azw

Apparently, Frank Lloyd Wright was a sort of male Siren, irresistibly alluring to women of all types. And like the Sirens of Greek myth when you responded to his beck and call, you were dashed to pieces upon his monumental ego, cruelty or indifference. So says T. C. Boyle, who has written an engaging, if over-long fictionalized version of the women in America's, and perhaps history's, greatest architect.

Having some familiarity and appreciation of his work, I was clueless as to his life, which from the Great War until his death in the 1950s was a tabloid editor's dream come true. Rupert Murdoch would have paid the man royalties for the number of papers his tawdry, tragic and tacky relationships sold. Following is an outline of some of the circumstances: If you don't want to know, DON'T read on. Twenty years into his first marriage, 6 children later FLW notices he's a genius and his wife's a bore. Naturally, that entitles him to break up and pursue the very modern and truly fascinating Mamah Borthwick Cheney.

Her truly gruesome end opens the door for my personal favorite--mad as a hatter Miriam Noel--morphine addict and sometimes sculptress who make Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction seem tame by comparison. Fortunate to get out of the relationship with all of his reproductive parts intact, Wright ends his life with the disappointingly hypocritical Olgiavanna, a pale shadow of the women who came and conquered before her. And a nasty busy-body to boot.

The author has done a ton of research and The Women shines because of it. The reincarnations of Wright's masterpiece, Taliesin, is well and beautifully told. I have two criticisms of the book, which others may not feel warranted. First, the section about Miriam (who happened to be my favorite character) is too long. It could be cut by a third. Second, while Wright is occasionally portrayed as selfish or egotistical, he is cut a great deal of slack and mostly comes off as your dutch uncle.

Personally I think he was a much nastier and much more overtly selfish SOB who exacted a price to be in his presence. The author and I can disagree about this but if you're going to portray the women in his life--i.e., Frank from their POV, Boyle could have or should have been harder on the person (not the genius--there's no doubt about that). As I said though, others won't agree. Or think parts too long. The Women succeeds many levels but two that are seemingly contradictory: informative and titillating. Enjoy!
I am a fan of T C Boyle but the book is suffering from a complicated and contrived structure with a uninteresting and cartoonish Japanese narrator that does add nothing to the story, just making it even more artificial. The women are not very interesting either, they all unexplainably love this male chauvinist narcissistic windbag. If one would not know who FLW was in reality, one would be hard to justify this overlong disjointed story of his women. Finally I got tired of this book and unable to finish it after skimming over long passages of trivia.
It was interesting to discover about Frank Lloyd Wright from the perspective of his wives and mistresses over the years. It does not fully address the creativity of the architect, but provides insight if the daily challenges in early 1900's, and society view of divorced couples in US.
Chapter initiates with comments of an apprentice, which also enriches the context.
Finally, I truly enjoyed the fact the history comes backwards, from the latest marriage into the first one.
I recognize the author the ability to keep me looking for more information about FLW, and mostly, about his major creations, starting from Taliesin. I would have appreciated the inclusion of pictures form the family and the houses/buildings as they appear in the story.
I read "Loving Frank" which was about Frank Lloyd Wrights first affair with Mamah borthwick. That book was so beautifully written I found myself obsessed with his story and his work. I read this book "The Women" hoping for a little more of the story. But this book was no where near as good as Loving Frank. It was boring.
More than 20 years ago, I read MANY MASKS, a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright by Brendan Gill, who was then a critic with THE NEW YORKER. This biography was an excellent chronological presentation of Wright and his achievements. But it never quite brought Wright to life. In contrast, THE WOMEN, T.C. Boyle's examination of Wright, certainly captures this famous architect as a character, who appears in this novel as charismatic, manipulative, narcissistic, scheming, and oddly susceptible to three strong but spiritual/romantic women, who shared what, in Wright's day, was his scandalous personal life. Once again, Boyle should get his due: He has persuasively brought a historical figure to life, just as he did with Alfred Kinsey, the sex researcher, in THE INNER CIRCLE.

In this case, Boyle finds a unique approach to Wright. In particular, he examines Wright through prisms of female confrontation that existed in three stages of his life. In Boyle's order, these are the confrontations between Miriam, Wright's estranged second wife, and Olga, who would become his third, in the early 1930's; between Miriam and Wright's mother, housekeeper, and Catherine, Wright's first wife, in the 12 years starting roughly with the Great War; and between Catherine and Mamah Cheney, Wright's lover, in the era of Wright's prairie houses.

To tell of these confrontations between the women, Boyle adapts a Harlequin romance tone. Examples include:

Olga in Part I: "Was going off with Frank Wright any different from going off with Gurdjieff--to dance, to serve, to absorb the radiance with her mouth, her fingers, her heart and mind and spirit? Or, was it simply a father she was looking for, a father to replace the one she'd lost? No matter, because there was one surety in all of this, one thing she knew without stint: he was hers..."

Miriam in Part II: "She felt it, the knowledge run through her like a long shiver, but she was there at the open casement, not fifty feet from him, and without thinking, she just opened her arms to him. `Frank,' she crooned, drawing out the single syllable in the continental way--`Frahhnnk'--and she watched his face change. `Come here. Come to me.'"

Catherine in Part III: "She couldn't abide the moment, couldn't live through it and keep her sanity--because if it was true, and she was testing him, pressing him, forcing him out into the open--she'd kill herself. Shriek till the shingles fell off the house and run howling down the street to throw herself..."

From the author's point of view, this tone certainly makes sense. There are, after all, hundreds of books about Wright and centering his book on Wright's women gave Boyle an unusual approach to this subject. Even so, this melodramatic style makes this novel a consistently irritating read, a miasma of run-on thoughts and overwrought emotion. Of course, it's a matter of taste. But the writing made me yearn for the terse and understated Hemingway.

Boyle clearly knows what he's doing. In Part II, he refers directly to WUTHERING HEIGHTS and in Part III he makes a sly reference to cheap novels. At these moments, he seems to be smiling and winking to his reader, conveying that his is a deliberate style choice and the approach that best captures the minds of Wright's crazed women. But if he's going to "wink" about the style to his readers, why not have a few moments of parody or caricature? As is, the gifted Boyle has written a historical novel that is a tribute to melodrama.