The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan

“Loving Frank” received excellent reviews, and it’s easy to see why. (I have some quibbles, but what else is new?) Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair with Mamah (Mame-a) Borthwick Cheney ended when Mamah and six others died in a horrible crime at Wright’s Wisconsin home. Wright was in Chicago at the time; after his first wife, Catherine, finally granted him a divorce several years after Borthwick’s death, he married twice more. In this novel, Horan goes beyond the limited historical record to imagine who Mamah Borthwick was, both in relation to and separate from her famous lover.

Mamah left a husband and two children to be with Wright. Unlike today, the default custodian in a divorce was usually the husband, and divorce was treated as a scandal that warranted disdain and shunning. Both Wright and Borthwick were hounded by reporters and ripped apart in the press for having deserted their families, though Borthwick’s reputation suffered most. Now, hardly anyone is expected to stay in a loveless marriage, and divorce is mostly sad and little remarked upon past that. So credit is due to Wright and Borthwick for having helped blaze a trail so that the heartsick and miserable are no longer doomed to live unhappily forever.

Past that, however, I wasn’t that wild about the protagonists. Wright was wildly irresponsible with money and thought his contributions as an architect meant others should put up with his idiosyncracies and failures to pay his debts. Borthwick didn’t seem to think things through, and they both appeared to expect others to pick up after them, so to speak. Still, the story is intriguing, Horan writes well, and the well-researched background about Wright is enlightening. I’m recommending it unless you really, really insist on likable characters.

As for animals, there is a dog, Lucky, who disappears after the murders. Farm life, with its pros and cons regarding animals, is recounted with a smattering of detail. Borthwick visits a zoo. And of course there are horses. I am declaring this book is SAFE for animal lovers.

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October 18, 2009 - Posted by | Book Reviews, historical fiction | , , , , ,

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