I read this book six years ago after my mother-in-law gave me the book. Her book club read it and she enjoyed it enough to pass it on. My book club chose this book to read for this month. It’s been so long since I read the book that I decided to read it again so I could participate in the conversation.
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 357 pages
Setting: early 1900s, Chicago, Wisconsin, Germany, Italy, and Japan
Summary: We focus on Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick. Both are happily married with families, living in Chicago. They meet when Edwin hires Frank to design a house for him and Mamah. Frank and Mamah fall in love and have an affair. Both speak of leaving their spouses to be with each other, but Frank’s wife won’t let him go. Mamah goes to Boulder, Colorado with her kids to visit a friend, and get space from Frank and Edwin in order to decide her next step. When Frank telegrams her that he’s leaving for Europe, she decides to go with him as a trial run of their relationship. They spend time in Germany and Italy while Frank works on a monograph and Mamah does some translating for a Swedish feminist. Frank builds a house for them in Wisconsin on some family property. Mamah works to turn it into their home as the press sensationalizes their relationship. On a visit by her children, one of the servants went crazy, torched the house, killed the family but not Frank) and most of the hired help.
Final thoughts: I enjoyed this book both times I read it. There were several people at book club who couldn’t get past the fact that Frank and Mamah were carrying on an affair and leaving their children behind. I was fascinated by Mamah’s life. She was not happy with Edwin, and Frank seemed to open up more possibilities in her life. Of course, she could have found plenty to occupy her mind in the early 1900s in Chicago, but Frank lit up her life. She kept trying to fill her life with some meaning, but always stopped short of finding a career outside of her life with a man – first with Edwin, and then with Frank. She almost found a calling translating the works of Ellen Keyes, but even Ellen ultimately failed her by flipping between the ideals of true love with a man and faithfulness as a mother. I enjoyed seeing the start of the feminist movement and the women’s suffrage movement.
I was quite shocked by the ending. I never saw it coming. Good thing it’s a true story, or I would have been very upset with the author to end the story with the horrific murder of Mamah and her two kids. It was so sad because Mamah and Frank were finally getting their lives settled together in a place that accepted them. Overall, it made a great book club book. We had plenty to talk about for nearly an hour, without even resorting to the questions in the back of the book.
Title comes from: Everything happened because Mamah loved Frank so much she was willing to give up her settled life for him
Reading challenges fulfilled: #83 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge
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