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The Women PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Women
Author: T. Coraghessan Boyle
Publisher: Published February 10th 2009 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 2009)
ISBN: 9780670020416
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Welcome to the troubled, tempestuous world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scandalous affairs rage behind closed doors, broken hearts are tossed aside, fires rip through the wings of the house and paparazzi lie in wait outside the front door for the latest tragedy in this never-ending saga. This is the home of the great architect of the twentieth century, a man of extremes in both Welcome to the troubled, tempestuous world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scandalous affairs rage behind closed doors, broken hearts are tossed aside, fires rip through the wings of the house and paparazzi lie in wait outside the front door for the latest tragedy in this never-ending saga. This is the home of the great architect of the twentieth century, a man of extremes in both his work and his private life: at once a force of nature and an avalanche of need and emotion that sweeps aside everything in its path. Sharp, savage and subtle in equal measure, "The Women" plumbs the chaos, horrors and uncontainable passions of a formidable American icon.

30 review for The Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance.” --Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright Tadashi Sato abandoned his studies and his life in Japan to come to America, more specifically Wisconsin, to study with his hero Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright had a fascination with Eastern culture, in particular their paintings, so it wasn’t hard for Tadashi to get one of the coveted apprenticeships. As I read this book I thought it was truly remarkable that ”Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance.” --Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright Tadashi Sato abandoned his studies and his life in Japan to come to America, more specifically Wisconsin, to study with his hero Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright had a fascination with Eastern culture, in particular their paintings, so it wasn’t hard for Tadashi to get one of the coveted apprenticeships. As I read this book I thought it was truly remarkable that anyone would take an apprenticeship with Wright. He was on the verge of bankruptcy most of the time. His personal life was one controversy after another which usually contributed to his insolvency. An apprentice might spend as much time peeling potatoes, hoeing in the garden, building rock walls or running an errand than they will working at the drafting tables. There was no pay, but generally they were housed and fed. All of this wouldn’t make any sense except that they were allowed to work with a man that is considered the most revered architect of his time. Fortunately for Wright he was not the only one that thought he was a genius. ”Was he the wounded genius or the philanderer and sociopath who abused the trust of practically everyone he knew, especially the women, especially them?” T. C. Boyle uses Tadashi as the narrator of this book. He tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright through his relationships with the women in his life. There were three wives, often overlapping each other, and there was one lover/soulmate who was tragically murdered. His 5’8” tall mother, two inches taller than him, always seems available to fill in the gaps when he is between women. He doesn’t do well on his own. ”The dishes were a nuisance, piled up around the house with unrecognizable crusts of food fused to their surfaces, the rugs were filthy, the linens needed changing, he was running short of shirts and underwear--socks--and he was tired of having to send someone out to the laundry every other day. The smallest thing. That was all he needed. Someone to look after him.” It must have been quite the shock for the women in his life to transition from this passionate love affair into the drudgery of keeping up with Frank’s extended household. It must have been difficult to watch FLW flitter about the country chasing down commissions and being left behind to “manage his affairs”. He was amazing and he was an ass. He was always dancing on the head of a needle not only in regards to his women, but also with his career. It takes superb balance to stay on that needle. The Edwin H. Cheney house that turned out to be so tragically costly. In 1903 FLW designed a house for Edwin Cheney, a neighbor in Oak Park, Illinois. Little did Cheney know that part of the cost of the commission was also his wife...Mamah. I’m sure it did not come up in the negotiations. She was a follower of the writer Ellen Key who advocated independence for women even to the point of saying that the bonds of marriage should not be a bond at all. Controversial stuff in 1903. FLW had been married to Catherine “Kitty” for twenty years and had four children with her. When he threw Kitty over and ran away with Mamah his career was quickly in shambles. Headlines blared his infidelity. He was hounded to the point that he finally called a disastrous press conference. He was big on those. ”One wonders when they were first conceived of--and wonders to at Wrieto-San’s curious propensity to inflict them carelessly on the women he professed to love.” Kitty continued to stand by him telling the press it was all just a misunderstanding. She was the dutiful wife until the end even long after they were divorced. Mamah Cheney, her bid for freedom ended disastrously. To escape the press FLW and Mamah flee to Europe. Even those that wanted to give him commissions could not. He was the hot potato; and few, even his best friends didn’t have the calluses to offer him help. One of the many times in his life when he had to sell his personal collections of paintings and vases to keep the wolves at bay. (Wolves is really not the proper term as most of the people he owed money to were ordinary people like the grocer he owed $900 to. The equivalent of $6,500 in today’s money.) One thing Wright could always count on was his own celebrated genius. He was a great self-promoter and even with this controversy eventually things die down enough for him to quietly begin building again. This was also the birth of Taliesin. He convinced his mother to buy land in Wisconsin where he could build his dream house and be away from the prying eyes of the press. Taliesin The next woman to enter his life pursued him with a barrage of sympathetic letters. Miriam Noel was an artist and hooked on morphine. She was cultured and elegant to the point that she was beyond being just an American, but really more a citizen of the world. FLW was experiencing a gap after the tragic death of Mamah at the hands of a servant from Barbados who went temporarily insane killing seven people at Taliesin. Two of the victims were also Edwin and Mamah’s children. The cost of building that house just keeps adding up for Edwin. Miriam Noel Wright. She was 45 when she met FLW, but looked 35. She was in the bloom of morphine youthfulness. Miriam was passionate and easily slighted and the rows these two proud people had were legendary. One thing that Miriam always chafed under was the spectre of Mamah. ”’Cold meat, Frank. But I’m alive, a real live flesh-and-blood woman!’ Both her hands were at her collar now and in a single savage jerk she tore the dress to her waist, her breasts falling free even as the cold air of the room assaulted her. ‘Look at me. Look at my breasts. You’ve fondled them enough. Suckled them like an infant. They were good enough for you then. And now you prefer a corpse, a corpse over me?’” She was also rather destructive. ”She picked up the table first--an end table of rosewood, intricately carved--and the sound it made when it tore the screen from the wall was like the overture to a symphony. Cloth gave. Wood. Plaster. Glass rang and chimed and hit all the high notes ascending the scale. She found an axe propped up against the fireplace and brought it down on the dining room table, the bookshelf, the chairs, the divans, the desk, Frank’s desk. There was the whoosh of a ceramic vase grasping at the air, the shriek of splintering wood, the basso profundo of the andirons slamming to the floor.” But the sex...well it was exceptional. Miriam was the most independent of his women. She left him several times. Each time waiting patiently for him to miss her enough to beseech her to return. She overplayed her hand in the end because he met Olgivanna. Passion and lust, not unusual for Frank, overrode all other considerations. He had trouble getting divorced from his wives. Kitty didn’t allow a divorce until 1922 and Miriam held out for as long as she could until finally letting him go for good in 1927. So while married he installed Olgivanna in his household as a “housekeeper”. Of course he promptly impregnated the “housekeeper” which effectively destroyed the fiction of that arrangement. Olgivanna Miriam was certainly a tigress. She hired a private investigator to follow her husband around and a couple of times she broke into the places they were staying and destroyed their possessions. Restraining orders? Who cares about no stinkin’ restraining orders. She did manage to get him arrested on violations of the Mann Act in Minnesota. She was magnificently vindictive. ”It is named after Congressman James Robert Mann, and in its original form prohibited white slavery and the interstate transport of females for "immoral purposes". Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution, "immorality", and human trafficking; however, its ambiguous language of "immorality" allowed selective prosecutions for many years, and was used to criminalize forms of consensual sexual behavior”. Wikipedia More press and more embarrassment, but I can’t help thinking that FLW despite the controversy and the temporary losses of commissions believed in the old adage “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Genius has a way of being forgiven. Notoriety is just part of the myth. In the end what people remember about Frank Lloyd Wright is his buildings not his scandals or his defaults or for that matter his faults. When the man is gone his genius survives. Fallingwater, considered one of his masterpieces. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    I really wanted to like this book because I like the subject matter of Frank Lloyd Wright. However, it seems like TC Boyle merely read several biographies of Wright and then compressed them into loosely fictionalized vignettes in this novel. The narrator's voice is probably the most confusing and least attractive aspect. The narrator's voice is presumably that of a Japanese foreign exchange student who works as an apprentice at Frank Lloyd's Wright's Midwestern Taliesin -- this is revealed in th I really wanted to like this book because I like the subject matter of Frank Lloyd Wright. However, it seems like TC Boyle merely read several biographies of Wright and then compressed them into loosely fictionalized vignettes in this novel. The narrator's voice is probably the most confusing and least attractive aspect. The narrator's voice is presumably that of a Japanese foreign exchange student who works as an apprentice at Frank Lloyd's Wright's Midwestern Taliesin -- this is revealed in the "foreword" of the novel. The reader will wonder why this gimmicky device was employed. Although Wright did work in Japan for certain periods of time, what insight or unique perspective is gained by having a foreign exchange student comment on the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright? In addition, this narrator's speech is peppered with altogether too many Midwestern colloquialisms for it to ring true. Worse, the narrative perspective constantly shifts from the voice of this young, hapless narrator, to various lovelorn females who think that Wright has done them wrong. The chronological order of the novel (presumably in reverse chronological order), and covering the periods when he loved and left his first mistress until his third wife, is confusing and digressive. For Wright aficionados, there is no new insight to be gleaned from this novel, no rich characterizations to contextualize our understanding, and no imagined flights of fancy about this fantastic dreamer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    Not a review, merely some late comments.... After a a week's break in reading, I'm up to the final part of The Women by T.C. Boyle. The day Mamah Borthwick meets their new butler Julian Carleton filled me with unease. My reading paced slowed as I approached that fateful day at Taliesin when Julian's rage at his wife, his situation, his life explodes. All too soon, I'm done; I sit on the sofa with tears in my eyes for the events which have unfurled; tears not for FLW's loss but for Mamah and her c Not a review, merely some late comments.... After a a week's break in reading, I'm up to the final part of The Women by T.C. Boyle. The day Mamah Borthwick meets their new butler Julian Carleton filled me with unease. My reading paced slowed as I approached that fateful day at Taliesin when Julian's rage at his wife, his situation, his life explodes. All too soon, I'm done; I sit on the sofa with tears in my eyes for the events which have unfurled; tears not for FLW's loss but for Mamah and her children. Mr T.C. Boyle has excelled himself with this portrayal of the talented Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This book covers the relationships between Frank Lloyd Wright and four very important women in his life. Three were married to him and the fourth died before they could become husband and wife. The book is about conjugal relationships, about one man but four very different women. Three of the four relationships are thoroughly covered, but his first wife with whom he had six children, less so. After reading this book you also understand the architect too. I rank him as a great artist but at the s This book covers the relationships between Frank Lloyd Wright and four very important women in his life. Three were married to him and the fourth died before they could become husband and wife. The book is about conjugal relationships, about one man but four very different women. Three of the four relationships are thoroughly covered, but his first wife with whom he had six children, less so. After reading this book you also understand the architect too. I rank him as a great artist but at the same time would absolutely NEVER want to be married to him. You can love what a person creates but not the person himself. You can love some characteristics and hate others. Frank Lloyd Wright is a complicated figure. This book covers a huge quantity of facts, the details of his life, and weaves them into a story that depicts how the women in his life reasoned and felt. It is this that constitutes the fictional element of the book. Dialogs and emotions can for the most part only be guessed at.....but they correspond well to the known facts. This kind of fiction makes dry biographical events into a moving, emotional story. Each relationship feels strong and real and all-engulfing. And at points horrifyingly gripping. I assume you know of the murders. I wish the book hadn't jumped around between different time periods. To say that it starts at the end and goes backwards in time is wrong too. It flips back and forth, and I cannot for the life of me see any advantage in doing this. Most people who want to read this book do want to complete it with a clear understanding of Wright’s life. I have read other books so I didn't tackle the subject from scratch, but still I went and read Wiki too. There are many different families that get disrupted by one man's love affairs. Many children and discarded wives and husbands. To keep all the names straight is hard enough without jumping around in time. Excellent narration by Grover Garner. I never felt he "overdid" the words of the book. The reading is rapid, and not even this bothered me! He captured the feel of the events. I have to remark though that the Swedish feminist Emily Key is pronounced Emily "kay" not "key"! There was one very funny point where a reporter had a stuffed nose. I was laughing, the guy sounded like he was sorely plagued by nasal congestion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kata

    I like T.C. Boyle. I really do. Look up, I gave him two stars. You can't tell I like him, can you? When you are fond of an author it seems to me that every time you purchase a subsequent book by that author (new release or old) you feel assured that your precious book money is being spent very wisely. People make all sorts of investments. I wonder if most of us on Goodreads consider our books the most scrutinized and cherished investments we make in our lives. It's true of me anyway. Screw my st I like T.C. Boyle. I really do. Look up, I gave him two stars. You can't tell I like him, can you? When you are fond of an author it seems to me that every time you purchase a subsequent book by that author (new release or old) you feel assured that your precious book money is being spent very wisely. People make all sorts of investments. I wonder if most of us on Goodreads consider our books the most scrutinized and cherished investments we make in our lives. It's true of me anyway. Screw my stock portfolio! What interest am I earning on that mutual fund? Oh, I don't really care. But do you know that I found a leather bound edition of The Brothers Karanazov with pencil illustrations a few weeks ago? Oh! Now that would have been a good investment indeed! I didn't buy it though because I spent all my investment money on books I have never read. It was a day of intense investing! The Women is built on a solid concept. Look away from my two stars for a moment. Avert your eyes! No cheating...don't look at it. Boyle makes a grand attempt at detailing the account of Frank Lloyd Wright's life, monetary issues, the crazy locals, marital battles and the daily events at his home (Taliesin). The narrative is told from the perspective of a Japanese apprentice, Tadashi. I very much enjoyed Tadashi's small story line in comparison to Wright's. Go ahead, look at those two stars now. Blah! Those stars are something ugly, aren't they? Tadashi tells the history of Wright's romantic inclinations. I had a fleeting thought of "good investment" when we meet Olgivanna (Wright's last wife) but that was short lived because the novel is divided into two parts. Part one bundles three women (Olgivanna, Kitty, Mamah) into a small package. Boyle bundled the wrong women. He bundled the interesting ones! Good investment slowly sinking... Part two Tadashi introduces us to Miriam who grated painfully dull on my literary brain. Miriam and Wright's entanglement lasted eternally in this book and even poor Tadashi cannot make it the least bit interesting. My good investment had plummeted to rock bottom when Miriam's name lingered for more than a chapter and I was left with a penny stock. Boyle a penny stock!?! Oh the horror of it! The book has a redeeming quality, in that the account of Wright's life is told somewhat in reverse which does leave for a climactic ending. That gave Boyle the second star by the skin of his nose. You've seen his nose, right? Second star and further investment scrutiny for quite some time Mr. Boyle... Please do not write any more biographical fiction. Please. I struggled to finish this book. I struggled to see my investment through to the end. Wright was without question a genius and an egoist in a very entertaining way and finding the right woman to suit him must have been very hard but those women he did choose were the dullest creatures to walk this Earth, I swear. Oprah's significant other may be more interesting. What's his name again? Just kidding. I'm a Wisconsin resident and Wright's Taliesin is just a car ride away. I'm not fan of architecture, but I am a fan of Boyle and if Boyle had written this book in a more intriguing way I'd bet you, even with today's price of gas, I would have jumped in my car the very next weekend and gone off to visit Taliesin. A good investment book will make you do things like that. There are books we will not understand until we have had a thorough education in the subject matter first. Then there are books we read which educate us and cause us to educate ourselves further on our own, right? The latter, more often than not, being the better investment in my opinion. My lack of education in Wright did not matter but perhaps an interest would have made this novel more appealing. My investment was a poor one. My penny stock, "The Women" did much of nothing in the way of improving my library portfolio.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Holy superfluous adjectives, this book was tedious. This was my second attempt to read it, I realized when I started. Last time, I returned the print edition about two chapters in. This time, I made it about 3/4 through an audio book only because it was the background to a days-long painting project. Sure, Boyle can craft a gilded curlicue of a sentence with fleur de lis and a cherry on top, requiring both a dictionary and a map to find your way out of it. A well placed sentence like that I can Holy superfluous adjectives, this book was tedious. This was my second attempt to read it, I realized when I started. Last time, I returned the print edition about two chapters in. This time, I made it about 3/4 through an audio book only because it was the background to a days-long painting project. Sure, Boyle can craft a gilded curlicue of a sentence with fleur de lis and a cherry on top, requiring both a dictionary and a map to find your way out of it. A well placed sentence like that I can appreciate. A whole book of sentences like that, however, is too much. The choice of narrator -- a sycophantic Japanese intern -- was also annoying in its cudgel like efforts at painting Wright both as someone who inspired dedication despite his caddish and irresponsible behavior. Add also to the poor narrator choice and the overwrought sentences, several shifts back and forth to Wright's women as additional narrators. The sum is a twisty turny jumble of adjectives, vocabulary exercises, and shifting points of view that left me with a real desire to punch everyone in the book square in their variously and thoroughly over-described noses. Also, I realize this is a work of fiction, but Frank Lloyd Wright seemed like a real dick.

  7. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Frank Lloyd Wright=mysogynistic whore

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    An absolutely terrific book – well-researched, consummately written, and addictively readable! I really feel Boyle is at his best when he writes biographical fiction; "The Women" is a wonderful addition to an already astounding canon of his bio-inspired work, which includes "The Road to Wellville" and "The Inner Circle." This new novel tells the interwoven stories of the women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life -- steadfast and obstinate Kitty Tobin Wright; erratic and opiate-addicted Miriam Noel; dis An absolutely terrific book – well-researched, consummately written, and addictively readable! I really feel Boyle is at his best when he writes biographical fiction; "The Women" is a wonderful addition to an already astounding canon of his bio-inspired work, which includes "The Road to Wellville" and "The Inner Circle." This new novel tells the interwoven stories of the women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life -- steadfast and obstinate Kitty Tobin Wright; erratic and opiate-addicted Miriam Noel; disciplined, yet eccentric Olgivanna Milanoff; and, of course, the passionate, political, and ultimately doomed Mamah Cheney. In addition to Frank’s loves, there are a slew of other formidable women who make up the story, including his clinging mother, his tough-as-nails housekeeper, and the timid Barbadian cook whose husband wreaked havoc on the great architect’s life. One of the most intriguing "women" in the book, though, is Frank’s Wisconsin estate, Taliesin, which is painted as more than just a physical building – it is also a psychological landscape. I was simply amazed and delighted by this book. Boyle does a phenomenal job of painting Frank Lloyd Wright as a complex and contradictory character. While you bristle at Frank's arrogance, you also understand wherein his charisma lay. He is a larger-than-life character that Boyle somehow makes incredibly lifelike. He is also quite sympathetic despite the fact that Boyle depicts him unapologetically. What makes this book such a stunning achievement (and one that, quite frankly [no pun intended:], completely surpasses Nancy Horan's "Loving Frank") is the sensitivity and intelligence with which Boyle tells the story. Rather than tell a simple, straightforward, linear narrative, the author frames the action with prefatory notes from a Japanese man who apprenticed at Taliesin. Tadashi's story is, in and of itself, a lovely and touching journey. To have his life story unfold during his retelling of Frank's is a stroke of creative brilliance, one that adds an incisive layer to the storytelling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I did not know anything about what this book was about other than the fact that I was attracted by the author TC Boyle. If you know the name of one architect that name is probably Frank Lloyd Wright. While there may be many other famous architects, his is the only name I know. As I began listening to this book I thought the women referred to in the title might be the relatively few women who worked as assistance to Wright during his career. That might make an interesting story since architecture I did not know anything about what this book was about other than the fact that I was attracted by the author TC Boyle. If you know the name of one architect that name is probably Frank Lloyd Wright. While there may be many other famous architects, his is the only name I know. As I began listening to this book I thought the women referred to in the title might be the relatively few women who worked as assistance to Wright during his career. That might make an interesting story since architecture is a pretty male dominated profession but the story was not about those unique women. It was about the four women who were the significant others in this famous architects life. Apparently Frank Loyd Wright has pretty poor public relations in portraying his human fallibilities. As is often true about famous or brilliant man his fallibilities focused on his relationships with the women in his life. That is complicated by the fact that I am not sure if this book would claim to be a biography or if it is a novel based on some amount of fact. A history book all novel I guess we would call it. For some reason the book is called in reverse order although some events that I referenced earlier are told in detail later. Frank Loyd Wright lived in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. As an architect he was fairly prolific. Reading this book makes me want to seek out books of photographs of his architectural creations. I did not realize that his home bass was in Wisconsin and finding pictures of the house where much of this book happened would be fascinating. For me one of the enduring parts of this book was the many many references to rooms being heated by fireplaces. Another aspect of Wright’s life what is that he lived quite a bit of it in community. Many people shared the housing complexes he designed in Wisconsin including the people who worked on constructing the buildings as well as the draftsman and other servants. At times extended family and others share the living space and meals were often a dozen or more people. I am a person who in my seven decades has had relationships with women lasting two, seven, 13, And 17 years so I have some sympathy with the story of a man who has several significant relationships. But he lived in an era where switching wives was not so acceptable as it is today. His story of how he left his first wife when he fell in love with another woman matches my experience so I have some sympathy for him. But it earned him a lot of grief. You could think of him (and me) as scum or just think of him as a person who was a victim of timing. I think he was presented as a character of very mixed qualities. Definitely a hard guy to live with!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    The Women by TC Boyle has an extremely interesting premise: tell the story of the love lives of Frank Lloyd Wright through an uninterested third party. The narrator brings nothing to the story and is beyond superfluous. The narrator also makes use of a lot of footnotes that do nothing except break up the overall storytelling. Relying heavily on footnotes is a very lazy way of writing. The reader has to stop in the middle of sentences and look up the tiny print footnotes and it completely takes o The Women by TC Boyle has an extremely interesting premise: tell the story of the love lives of Frank Lloyd Wright through an uninterested third party. The narrator brings nothing to the story and is beyond superfluous. The narrator also makes use of a lot of footnotes that do nothing except break up the overall storytelling. Relying heavily on footnotes is a very lazy way of writing. The reader has to stop in the middle of sentences and look up the tiny print footnotes and it completely takes one out of the moment. Not to mention that on several pages there were multiple footnotes annotated by strange symbols and I found myself getting lost on the page. Too much work if you just want to enjoy the story. Also, the narrator (who has little to do with the actual story) must introduce each section by giving some asides to the reader which add nothing to the overall book. Many, many pages are wasted in this manner. My other complaint about the story is that every "woman" had a redundant story. They each have their little quirks: one left her children to be with the Master, one was a crazy morphine junky and the other was a refugee from her home country. However, this is the only thing that separates each woman... they all have the same issue with F L Wright: he is pompous, controlling, demanding, unreasonable but must be the greatest lover in the history of men in order to get these (mostly) smart women to endure anything for him. And that their stories are told backwards...that is to say that they start with the most recent wife and go backwards through time to the first pair of wives (and the first one isn't really given any time at all). But the women all have the same problems: broken promises, in debt because of Wright's madness allows him to owe thousands of dollars to the grocer or the laborers and then wonder why they can't just give him whatever he wants because he has graced the peons with the presence of genius. All this book confirmed for me that Frank Lloyd Wright is an unreasonable, unstable user. So what if he is an artist? He doesn't know how to treat people. Ultimately this is a modern historical novel and I didn't learn anything that I couldn't have looked up on Google about these women. A big miss for me from TC Boyle that was lazily executed and redundant.

  11. 5 out of 5

    J. Lynn

    I couldn't put it down; it was totally mesmerizing. But the events of the last part were so incredible, so horrifying and so fascinating (and horrifying!! have I mentioned horrifying?!) that it's hard to even remember the rest. It makes me wonder if it would have been possible to have written this book without the One Event totally eclipsing the rest of the novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    liked it alot in the begining, slowed up abit towards the end, very interesting, what a man Frank was, sheesh!

  13. 5 out of 5

    BarbJ

    Loved this book about the egotistical FLW and his women!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Back in 2007 when I first started doing book reviews on a regular basis, one of the first older titles I tackled was by the magnificent T.C. Boyle, because of him being almost a textbook example of the type of author perfect for this site's "Tales from the Completist" series -- he has a wide range of books (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Back in 2007 when I first started doing book reviews on a regular basis, one of the first older titles I tackled was by the magnificent T.C. Boyle, because of him being almost a textbook example of the type of author perfect for this site's "Tales from the Completist" series -- he has a wide range of books out now, each roughly as popular as the others, with significant differences between each but common themes to them all, a writer who has by now proven his importance to literary history but who continues to crank out new novels on a regular basis. So I was quite happy to say the least to recently stumble across his latest at my neighborhood library, 2009's The Women, which like many of his previous titles uses a true incident at its core in order to spin a seriocomic tale around it; in this case, a semi-biographical look at the life of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, seen through the eyes of the four lovers he had as an adult, three of whom were eventually wives and an overlapping three of whom were at first illicit mistresses. Although to Wright purists, let's make it clear right away that it's only a certain chunk of Wright's complicated and event-filled life that Boyle looks at here -- his decades spent at Taliesin, that is, the cutting-edge compound in the back woods of Wisconsin where he lived in the middle years of his life, which started simply as a retirement home for his ailing mother but eventually became an Objectivist-style refuge from the mouthbreathers of the world for all manner of haughty intellectuals, where residents were held to a more European standard of living (looser relationships but tighter morals), and where Wright wielded an iron fist over such forward-thinking pet habits as a ban on smoking and alcohol. And in fact, presented in this way, it's easy to see why Boyle would be attracted to such material to begin with, because within it are the seeds that also make up the two older novels of his I've already read, 2003's Drop City and 1993's The Road to Wellville (and I'm sure more of his books that I'm not yet familiar with); after all, they each deal with voluntarily isolated groups of "true believers" ensconced in rural American utopian enclaves, earnest yet slightly crazy people living existences defined by bizarrely specific rules, under the tight control of a cultish, eccentric leader, in this case making such a story work by ignoring Wright's early years in Chicago and late life in Arizona, instead focusing on his years in the Upper Midwest and all the dysfunctional events that took place there. Because make no mistake, there were plenty of dysfunctional events that took place at Taliesin, a wealth of strange turns that keeps this thick yet easily readable story clicking along at a fast pace -- a man who was simply born to love women, Wright was one of the first big public figures at the end of the Victorian Age to embrace the idea of couples cohabitating without being married (the proverbial "living in sin"), with Taliesin quickly dubbed by the press as a smokily erotic den of iniquity, where an endless series of east-coast showgirls, European bohemians, and other undesirables maintained a rather steady revolving door all through the Edwardian Age and then into Modernism, as Wright's personal fortunes went from great to terrible to great again, using the Wisconsin campus itself as a rather literal living laboratory for his cutting-edge theories involving building materials, urban planning and more, keeping afloat in the lean years by selling off some of his antique Japanese prints, one of the biggest and most prestigious collections in Western hands at the time. Much like his other books, then, Boyle uses this milieu to spin a tale by turns equally tragic and funny, a look at these years that clearly comes from a place of love and admiration, but that doesn't hesitate to get dark or critical whenever the occasion is warranted. And that's a fine line to tread, frankly, when basing such a story on true events, which is a big part of Boyle's magic, and why he's such an obsessively loved author in the first place; because his dedication to deep academic-style research keeps books like these honest in their details, while his sensitivity and fine touch keeps them emotionally honest as well, not lazy hatchet jobs despite their many cringe-inducing moments but rather these ironically sweet odes to the perpetual complexity of the human spirit, of the ephemeral traits that make all of us admired in some circumstances and despised in others. (And in fact Boyle even structures The Women in a way so to emphasize this duality, in effect telling the story chronologically backwards, so that each section starts with his previous lover as villain and the new lover as hero, but with the next section presenting that villain now as the new hero and the lover before her as the new villain, an ingenious framing device for a story that's ultimately about a charming man who unfortunately got tired of his lovers rather quickly.) As with the other titles of his I've now read, this all adds up by the end to a rather delightful experience, a pleasing mix of academic focus and beach-read thrills which is what makes Boyle one of my favorite living writers on the planet right now; and if you've never tackled one of his oddly compelling titles before yourself, this is an excellent one to start with, not least of which is because of the storyline itself being already so well-known and thoroughly documented. It comes highly recommended today, and makes me anxious to jump right back into Boyle's funny, ribald universe as soon as I can. Out of 10: 9.3

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    In his new work, "The Women," the endlessly imaginative novelist T.C. Boyle sets his sights on the gifted architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a larger-than-life figure whose colorful exploits seem an ideal fit for Boyle's love of protagonists both epic and flaky (see "The Road to Wellville," "The Inner Circle" and many more). Boyle's rendition of Wright strides about with appropriate ferocity, "a repository of playfulness and merriment ... that only underscored the magnetism of his genius" yet "famous In his new work, "The Women," the endlessly imaginative novelist T.C. Boyle sets his sights on the gifted architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a larger-than-life figure whose colorful exploits seem an ideal fit for Boyle's love of protagonists both epic and flaky (see "The Road to Wellville," "The Inner Circle" and many more). Boyle's rendition of Wright strides about with appropriate ferocity, "a repository of playfulness and merriment ... that only underscored the magnetism of his genius" yet "famous for ... his temper, especially if he felt he wasn't getting the respect -- adulation, worship even -- he felt he deserved." Wright was a short, Napoleonic statue of a man whose blazing personality remained unvanquished in the face of relentlessly rocky personal and public dalliances. His one-dimensionality in the book feels intentional, as Boyle uses Wright's cheerful, blockheaded stoicism as a foil for his true central characters, the women Wright drove to the edge of madness and beyond. Using an intriguing structural device, Boyle works backward down the timeline of Wright's romances. "The Women" begins with the young dancer Olga Lazovich Milanoff, whom the architect would marry and bear a child with while in his 60s, and ends with the story of his first mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. The book's middle section focuses on Wright's second wife, Maude Miriam Noel, a passionate, wildly possessive, endlessly conniving force of nature whose unbalanced personality seems both the only one equal to Wright's bravado and the one most susceptible to its obliviousness. Boyle's backward motion proves its value in his novel's final third, landing on the point in Wright's life that has shaped everything that has happened before: the baffling murder of Cheney, her children and some of Wright's workers. Boyle is at his furious best in this final chapter, depicting the irrepressible rage of the murderer and the details of his terrible deed (committed with an ax) while also, miraculously, affording the killer a modicum of humanity. It's a dazzling piece of storytelling that cauterizes the meandering, overlong threads of the previous pages, filling the air with the smoking remnants of Wright's house, which the killer set ablaze. The incident arrives with such searing finality, it feels as if Wright's story should be over. Until one remembers that he survived this massacre, away on business when it happened. That his story is really just beginning.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbaraw

    Il fuoco divampa Confesso: non lo conoscevo Frank Lloyd Wright, il grande architetto del Guggenheim, disegnato a tratti fortissimi da Boyle; ora però, sono entrata nei suoi progetti, nella sua folle grandezza, nei suoi sciagurati amori per donne estreme. Il romanzo è costruito sotto l'influenza diretta dell'architetto: un progetto un pò folle, difficile, dislocato su piani temporali che si intersecano, si rincorrono, traboccano sull'ambiente circostante. Le donne del titolo, amanti e mogli di Wrig Il fuoco divampa Confesso: non lo conoscevo Frank Lloyd Wright, il grande architetto del Guggenheim, disegnato a tratti fortissimi da Boyle; ora però, sono entrata nei suoi progetti, nella sua folle grandezza, nei suoi sciagurati amori per donne estreme. Il romanzo è costruito sotto l'influenza diretta dell'architetto: un progetto un pò folle, difficile, dislocato su piani temporali che si intersecano, si rincorrono, traboccano sull'ambiente circostante. Le donne del titolo, amanti e mogli di Wright sono l'ossatura, la continuità e la tragedia di quest'uomo dagli amori furiosi, repentini ed irremediabili. Un fuoco divampa in tutto il libro, fuoco dell'uomo invasato dal proprio genio, fuoco delle donne bruciate dal suo amore e l'incendio reale, distruttivo, assassino che divampa nella parte finale.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I've come to the conclusion that I'm just a wimp when it comes to books about FLW. I know what the ending will be, and as I approach the final pages, I find myself reading slower and slower, putting off the inevitable. The same thing happened with Loving Frank. Maybe it's because I've been to Taliesen, plus my MIL grew up near Spring Green and has her own stories about Wright and crew. Since I don't have to expend any effort visualizing the setting, I can let my imagination run wild visualizing I've come to the conclusion that I'm just a wimp when it comes to books about FLW. I know what the ending will be, and as I approach the final pages, I find myself reading slower and slower, putting off the inevitable. The same thing happened with Loving Frank. Maybe it's because I've been to Taliesen, plus my MIL grew up near Spring Green and has her own stories about Wright and crew. Since I don't have to expend any effort visualizing the setting, I can let my imagination run wild visualizing the plot. I probably would have thrown in the towel had not TC Boyle's' characters been so compelling. I'm not a big fan of footnotes in fiction, but the voice of the narrator helped to not only put the events in context, but also to humanize the larger-than-life cast of characters.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    This is a biography of the four main women in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The author uses a number of innovative literary techniques. He tells much of the story from the perspective, or retrospective, of a Japanese architect intern of Wright's, and he structures the story chronologically backward from Frank in old age, with his Slavic beauty at his side, to his earlier wives and ultimately the violent tragedy of his first love. The women are well-portrayed, and so is Frank -- all talk, drive This is a biography of the four main women in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The author uses a number of innovative literary techniques. He tells much of the story from the perspective, or retrospective, of a Japanese architect intern of Wright's, and he structures the story chronologically backward from Frank in old age, with his Slavic beauty at his side, to his earlier wives and ultimately the violent tragedy of his first love. The women are well-portrayed, and so is Frank -- all talk, drive, bluster and genius - and a bit of a con man -- as we see him from their multiple perspectives over his lifetime.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jos

    T.C. Boyle in the 90's bought a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Otherwise, this book probably wouldn't exist. Also in the 90's, I studied at Arizona State University, location of Frank Lloyd Wright's last great work, the Grady Gammage Auditorium. Otherwise, I probably would have read another T.C. Boyle book. The unique thing here is Boyle's already proven approach to take a more or less quirky figure from history - John Harvey Kellogg, Alfred Charles Kinsey, now Frank Lloyd Wright - to ligh T.C. Boyle in the 90's bought a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Otherwise, this book probably wouldn't exist. Also in the 90's, I studied at Arizona State University, location of Frank Lloyd Wright's last great work, the Grady Gammage Auditorium. Otherwise, I probably would have read another T.C. Boyle book. The unique thing here is Boyle's already proven approach to take a more or less quirky figure from history - John Harvey Kellogg, Alfred Charles Kinsey, now Frank Lloyd Wright - to light facets of man by enlarging these facets, using the chosen figures as magnifying lenses, each one of them symbolizing these facets in essential ways. Among those mentioned, Wright is probably the least eccentric, his vices 'simply' being hubristic pride and lust, nothing pathologic. The vice of hubristic pride could quickly be dealt with by quoting the master himself: - "Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change." - "I had no choice, Olgivanna. I was under oath." - Frank Lloyd Wright, immediately after a court appearance when he was asked his "occupation" and answered saying he was "the worlds greatest architect". For the vice of lust, a list of his wifes and parallely his concubines would do the job. But then, Boyle wouldn't have a job. Thus, he chose an interesting structure to give us his subjective biography of Wright, his contemplation on pride and lust. Boyle divides the book into sections which are headlined by the various women he was married to or were his concubines, working his way backward in time. They couldn't be more different. All this being told by an unreliable narrator, a fictional Japanese assistant of Wright. - Olgivanna, the young immigrant from one of the foremost Macedonian families, a control Freak of sorts, controversial in contemporary assessment. - Maude Miriam Wright, artist, drug addict, one of the earliest stalkers. Fascinating but crazy. - Mamah Borthwick Cheney, intellectual and early feminist. Mostly famous for getting killed in the Taliesin massacre by one of Wright's employees. - Catherine "Kitty" Wright, first wife, housewife, mother. Solid but boring. Frank Lloyd Wright was a charmer, an egomaniac, not to be trusted business-wise. Not to be left alone with the wifes of his customers. Boyle succeeds in painting the picture of a character larger than life, living an extraordinary life by his own standards, setting examples for later generations. A good read but Boyle could have been more concise. Not every turn in Wright's life adds insights. If there's a lesson to be learned, it's the price you have to pay for not compromising. Even the most exceptional persons can't get away without paying.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Boyle, T. C. THE WOMEN. (2009). *****. I’ve always been impressed with the writing ability of this author, whose other novels include, “Drop City,” and “The Road to Wellville.” This novel (and you have to remember that it is a novel) is about four women in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The author chose to work backwards from his last wife, Olgivanna Milanoff, an exotic woman from Montenegro who had been a student of the Russian mystic, Gurdjieff. Before her, there was Maude Miriam Noel, a pass Boyle, T. C. THE WOMEN. (2009). *****. I’ve always been impressed with the writing ability of this author, whose other novels include, “Drop City,” and “The Road to Wellville.” This novel (and you have to remember that it is a novel) is about four women in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The author chose to work backwards from his last wife, Olgivanna Milanoff, an exotic woman from Montenegro who had been a student of the Russian mystic, Gurdjieff. Before her, there was Maude Miriam Noel, a passionate southern belle with a prediliction for morphine, who left her husband and children for Wright. Before Maude, there was Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a neighbor of Wright in Chicago, who was later killed, along with her two children at Wright’s Wisconsin estate, Taliesin, in 1914 – one of seven people hacked to death by a madly disgruntled butler that Wright had brought in from Barbados. Finally, there was Kitty Tobin, his first wife, with whom he had six children – several of them going on to become architects in their own right. The story is told with the help of Tadashi Sato, one of Wright’s apprentices at Taliesin, along with the writing help of one of the other apprentices. Sato also adds footnotes to the story as it moves along that add verisimilitude to the whole tale. You don’t get much of an idea of what Wright himself was really like in this novel, other than that he was a single-minded perfectionist in pursuit of his craft. One footnote that provides some insight was the following story told by Sato of one of the many civil cases in which Wright was involved. The judge asked him his profession and he stated that he was an architect – in fact, the world’s greatest architect. “The greatest?" the judge echoed. “How can you make that claim?” “Well, Your Honor,” Wright replied, “I am under oath.” Another footnote gives us an idea of Wright’s complete indifference to his financial affairs: “He was a keen borrower, as has been seen, but at the same time seemed to have difficulty with the concept of repayment.” If you want to know more about Wright, you have to find another book. This one is clearly about his women. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Audiobook read by Grover Gardner 3*** Boyle tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright through the eyes of the women who loved him: first wife Kitty, mistress Mamah, second wife Miriam, and third wife Olgivanna. He frames the story by having the story told – as a sort of biography – by Tadashi Sato, one of Wright’s apprentices in the 1930s. Sato has an introduction/prologue to each of the three parts of the novel, as well as interjecting footnotes throughout. The chronology moves back and forth, beginn Audiobook read by Grover Gardner 3*** Boyle tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright through the eyes of the women who loved him: first wife Kitty, mistress Mamah, second wife Miriam, and third wife Olgivanna. He frames the story by having the story told – as a sort of biography – by Tadashi Sato, one of Wright’s apprentices in the 1930s. Sato has an introduction/prologue to each of the three parts of the novel, as well as interjecting footnotes throughout. The chronology moves back and forth, beginning with Wright’s last love, Olgivanna – their meeting, love affair, and marriage – then moving to focus on Miriam, and finally in part three giving the tragic story of Mamah. First wife, Kitty, is evident in parts two and three I’m struggling with what to say about this book because the story arc was so fractured. Boyle definitely gives the reader a sense of each different woman – except for Kitty, who gets very little time on the page. I found myself wondering why any of them put up with Wright, and why Wright put up with Miriam! But what really struck me is that, despite the title and the organization of the book, the women come off as secondary to the man. Frank Lloyd Wright is a bigger-than-life presence here, and I grew tired of him. Grover Gardner does a reasonably good job narrating the audio book. He has good pacing, and I really grew to like the way he voiced Miriam!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Mustread

    Fictional biography of the women in architect Frank Lloyd Wright's (1867-1959) life -- mother, sister, wives, mistresses, but primarily Olgivanna his third wife, Miriam, mistress and later second wife, and Mamaw an early feminist who was his mistress and the cause of his leaving his first wife. The tangled domestic life and lack of personal financial savvy, not to mention the extreme egomania, also give great insight into the famous architect. I loved the way Boyle used the introduction of each s Fictional biography of the women in architect Frank Lloyd Wright's (1867-1959) life -- mother, sister, wives, mistresses, but primarily Olgivanna his third wife, Miriam, mistress and later second wife, and Mamaw an early feminist who was his mistress and the cause of his leaving his first wife. The tangled domestic life and lack of personal financial savvy, not to mention the extreme egomania, also give great insight into the famous architect. I loved the way Boyle used the introduction of each section, told by a Japanese intern of Wright's, who in this fictional version is also the grandfather-in-law of the purported "author" of this memoir, to add further information and background. Although the reverse chronological order of the sections on the women made me think the ending would be obvious and depressing, the surprise twist at the end was a total surprise to me, but still depressing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cammy

    I really didn't like this book. Maybe too much Frank Lloyd Wright at one time...but the style of writing was just not inviting for me. The author used annoying footnotes throughout the book to explain inconsequential things about the stories of the 4 women who FLW was in love with at various times in his life. It was distracting and also relayed information that wasn't at all necessary to the story, in my opinion. Some of the facts were interesting...but overall, "Loving Frank" was a much better I really didn't like this book. Maybe too much Frank Lloyd Wright at one time...but the style of writing was just not inviting for me. The author used annoying footnotes throughout the book to explain inconsequential things about the stories of the 4 women who FLW was in love with at various times in his life. It was distracting and also relayed information that wasn't at all necessary to the story, in my opinion. Some of the facts were interesting...but overall, "Loving Frank" was a much better and more engaging book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    An early Christmas gift : just the kind of bolloxed & boring (best-seller, natch) contempo novel I detest. Say bye-bye to Taliesin, Mamah ghost, poor battered soul. O, the gush of it all--.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    3.5 stars. Considering how consistently, shockingly good he is, it always surprises me how few people have read T.C. Boyle. Of his fifteen novels, at least four are stone-cold classics and one of them deserves to be canonized. The most compelling thing about his work is the way he’s able to graft fairly weighty issues onto narrative engines that develop and maintain some serious momentum; they never get bogged down in their own importance at the expense of telling an entertaining tale. He’s equal 3.5 stars. Considering how consistently, shockingly good he is, it always surprises me how few people have read T.C. Boyle. Of his fifteen novels, at least four are stone-cold classics and one of them deserves to be canonized. The most compelling thing about his work is the way he’s able to graft fairly weighty issues onto narrative engines that develop and maintain some serious momentum; they never get bogged down in their own importance at the expense of telling an entertaining tale. He’s equally adept at writing purely fictional tales like The Tortilla Curtain (Mexican immigration), A Friend of the Earth (environmental collapse), and Talk Talk (identity theft and digital security) and historical fiction that mines the lives of real people for allegorical heft: World’s End (explorer Mungo Park); The Inner Circle (sex researcher Alfred Kinsey); and The Women (the wives – and loves – of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Underlying all these tales is a vague sense of creeping dread: Boyle’s novels rarely end well for any of his characters. I don’t know how he does it, but his books never fail to make me deeply uncomfortable. I realize that’s not for everyone. This is certainly true of The Women, a book which, I have to admit, seemed overly – and unusually – simplistic for much of its length before deepening and darkening in its final third. By telling Frank Lloyd Wright’s story (you know his work: Fallingwater; the Guggenheim Museum; Robie House) through his interactions with four women, Boyle almost seems to be angling for an oddly crass subtext that goes something like this: “Bitches be crazy.” I’ve always known Boyle to imbue his characters with a rich and complex inner life, so the way the characters, and one in particular (whom I’ll discuss in a moment), are drawn left me with some difficult questions. Before getting to that shortcoming, though, it’s worth talking about the book’s structure, which is kind of brilliant. Boyle’s novel focuses, as I said, on Wright’s relationships with four women, but it’s told in the form of a novel written by Tadashi Sato, a fictional apprentice of Wright’s at Taliesin (the architect’s Wisconsin compound), and translated by the equally fictional Seamus Flaherty. So it’s Boyle telling Frank Lloyd Wright’s story through the eyes of four women as related by a Japanese architect and translated by an Irish American author. Oh, and the whole thing is told in reverse chronological order. In addition to the narrative possibilities afforded by the unconventional structure, Boyle also has fun with the conceit in other ways, commenting on the occasional floridness of his prose by pawning it off on the translator. At one point Boyle writes, ” . . . he could think of nothing but the excitement of the affair at hand, the old libidinous fires restoked . . .” and footnotes it with an aside from Sato: “One of those curious overheated phrases of O’Flaherty-San, which we will let stand.” It’s fun watching an author of Boyle’s talent play. I eat this stuff up. So the novel begins its first proper chapter (after a lengthy introduction where we meet Sato and Wright and are oriented to life at Taliesin) by telling the story of how Wright met third wife Olgivanna while still married to second wife Miriam; then it skips backward to show us how he met Miriam after the tragic (real-life) murder of his lover Mamah and her two children; then goes backward one step further to show us his introduction to Mamah while still married to first wife Kitty. It’s not really a book about Wright, except in how we see him reflected in the eyes of Sato and the women who love him, so anyone wanting Wright’s biography will be disappointed (although I certainly learned more about Wright from The Women than I expected). And that brings me to the problem I mentioned earlier. The women, as related by Boyle through Sato and O’Flaherty, aren’t particularly likable. I don’t see this as a problem by itself. I don’t demand likable characters. Flawed is good. Flawed is real. But Olgivanna, his third wife and thirty years his junior, is really the only one who comes off at all positively (although by the time Sato meets her at Taliesin she’s a stern taskmaster, worn down by life). Kitty is more or less a non-entity, the spurned wife who won’t grant him a divorce. Mamah is a pretentious, solipsistic Free Spirit™ who views her affair with Wright as a way of thumbing her nose at conventionality and the patriarchy. And Miriam, an obsessive, drug-addicted Southern belle, takes up much of the narrative in troubling ways. She’s given to flights of extreme melodrama, picking fights with Wright, leaving him at the drop of a hat, and eventually stalking him (and resorting to threats and vandalism) when he takes up with Olgivanna during one of their separations. Maybe all this happened. Maybe Boyle is playing it straight. But it does trouble me that none of the women are here to defend themselves. Miriam especially is painted as a such a horrible shrew that I simultaneously felt bad for her and wanted Wright to push her in front of a streetcar. And that’s kind of a shame, because the book really is otherwise excellent. Wright (as a character) is certainly fascinating, even while it’s still a mystery to me why he was so popular with the ladies (charisma, I guess; some men have it.), and Boyle relates his various struggles (with money, with building Taliesin and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, with – of course – women) in prose that is as evocative as ever. And the final third is, as I mentioned at the top, painted in Boyle’s typical shades of black. Ending with Mamah’s murder (and this isn’t a spoiler; it’s alluded to throughout the book and it’s in the historical record, fer cryin’ out loud) seems in some ways to be an indictment of Wright’s relentless philandering. Her death is what led to his calamitous relationship with Miriam (they met after she wrote to him upon reading of Mamah’s murder in the news), and it cast a pall over Taliesin for years. I don’t know if it’s technically the moral of the story – keep it in your pants, boys! – but it’s no accident that Boyle ended The Women with one of their deaths. The copy on the back of the book reads, “Is it easy to live with a genius?” The definitive answer seems to be “no.” But Boyle also makes it clear that it takes a particular kind of woman to want to live with a genius . . . and the result is never going to be good. Read all my reviews at goldstarforrobotboy.net

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fabienne

    "Wrieto-San hield van zachte potloden. Op zijn vaderlijke - sommigen zouden zeggen: tirannieke - manier had hij het harde potlood uit de tekenkamer verbannen, ..." (p.365)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharyl

    The Women, by T.C. Boyle, is a novel that depicts the relationships the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had with four women in his life. Boyle creates a narrator for this saga, one Sato Tadashi, a young man from Japan who reveres the famous architect and has come to Wisconsin to be one of Wright's apprentices at Taliesin. Even though this is a novel, and Tadashi is an invented character, almost all the events depicted in this book are known to be true. I found Boyle's way of expandin The Women, by T.C. Boyle, is a novel that depicts the relationships the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had with four women in his life. Boyle creates a narrator for this saga, one Sato Tadashi, a young man from Japan who reveres the famous architect and has come to Wisconsin to be one of Wright's apprentices at Taliesin. Even though this is a novel, and Tadashi is an invented character, almost all the events depicted in this book are known to be true. I found Boyle's way of expanding on these facts to be fascinating, and I also really liked Tadashi. He is an excellent vehicle to speak for the apprentices, who paid tuition to Wright so that they could work their backsides off, spending more time at their farm chores than at their drawing boards. Tadashi also has the bad luck of being at Taliesin during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and so spends WWII in an internment camp. I kept forgetting that Tadashi was a fictional man, Boyle's deft depiction of how these obscure apprentices sacrificed years of their lives to be near greatness, and also a reminder of the prejudices of the times. Boyle chooses to introduce us to these women in reverse order, going back in time, since Tadashi arrives in the 1930s in time to meet Wrieto-San's last wife. However, I will mention them in chronological order, as is my wont: Wright's first wife was Catherine "Kitty" Tobin, just seventeen years old when she married him in 1899. They had six children. Boyle does not fill in many details of this relationship for us, since Kitty must have had her hands full with children and housework, while Frank was out hustling commissions to support his large family. The one common thread stitched into all these stories is that Frank doesn't pay his bills. Kitty is the one who is left to feel uncomfortable everytime she gets groceries, being constantly reminded of their ever-growing debt. Frank is oblivious to these--little troubles, and always seems to have everything he wants. Speaking of that, it is not long before Frank decides that he wants to be married to the wife of one of his clients. While designing a house for Edwin Cheney, he runs off to Europe with Edwin's wife, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. They both abandon their spouses and children in an act that is seen as immoral and selfish, and the scandal that follows almost ruins Frank's career. Kitty doesn't even know of this until the reporters come for her statement. This was Frank at his cruelest. Frank and Mamah lived together without the benefit of marriage, and for this they were generally shunned, especially Mamah. (Frank's women always suffered.) It was somewhat ironic that Mamah was very much interested in the feminist movement and working on a translation of a feminist writer's work while living at Taliesin, the home Frank built for the two of them, when she was tragically murdered by a servant named Julian Carlton. ( Taliesin murders ) Seven people were murdered that day, including Mamah's visiting children, who were 12 and 9 years old. I found myself worrying about the fate of the murderer's young wife Gertrude, who was certainly not involved. The motive is still unknown, but Boyle imagines a very likely one. Soon after Mamah's shocking death, while Frank is still mourning and vulnerable, a woman named Maude "Miriam" Noel insinuates her way into his life, and this is the start of a very bad time; Miriam is portrayed as the worst kind of opportunist, and she was definitely addicted to morphine. This marriage is over within a year, and while Frank is separated from Miriam, he meets Olga Lazovich Hinzenburg, or Olgivanna for--short, who will be his last wife. His early days with Olgivanna are marred by Miriam. The way she torments, harasses, and actually stalks Frank and Olgivanna, even after being offered a very reasonable divorce settlement, would probably land Miriam in jail today, or at least rehab. Actually, my only real criticism of this novel is that there's too much Miriam in it, even though I realize that Frank's battle with her lasted a long time, possibly three times longer than their short marriage. In short, it was incredibly ugly and tedious. Overall, I enjoyed this novel very much, and can see why Boyle decided to portray Wright's wives in reverse order, since it made for a more climatic ending than the other way around. How Frank Lloyd Wright managed to create such marvelous work with all this going on in the background is a mystery.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ryandake

    a friend lent me this book, for which i am glad--i'm glad i didn't spend any money on it. in this book, the purported aim is to tell the story of frank lloyd wright's many wives and mistresses from their point of view. yay! sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? but alas, what we readers get instead is a long, dreary, misogynist fairy tale in which all the women eventually turn out to be hags. ok, now, fair questions: maybe all those women really were hags? maybe wright just picked 'em unstable, i a friend lent me this book, for which i am glad--i'm glad i didn't spend any money on it. in this book, the purported aim is to tell the story of frank lloyd wright's many wives and mistresses from their point of view. yay! sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? but alas, what we readers get instead is a long, dreary, misogynist fairy tale in which all the women eventually turn out to be hags. ok, now, fair questions: maybe all those women really were hags? maybe wright just picked 'em unstable, immature, vengeful, neurotic, preposterously narcissistic, unloving to their own children? but no, i don't think so. because even women who are unstable, immature etc have other dimensions to their characters than a periscope-like focus on one man. women have friends, they have birth families, they have interests, they have work (in that time, often endless and unpaid), they have children. they have a life of the mind, however different a woman's mind might have been before they were even permitted to vote. and yet boyle seems quite uninterested in any of these aspects of the women who captured wright's affections. first up in the novel is wright's last wife, olgivanna. she is the prototypical Earth Mother, or she ends up being so. next is miriam, the harpy. then we get mamah, who is first the lover, and then the object of grief. and finally, a little bit of kitty, wright's first wife, with him for 20 years and mother of the majority of his children. so. wright first woos and then dumps each in her turn (with the exception of olga, who is wooed but not dumped, but widowed). i have no idea or comment on the historical accuracy of this book, by the way--i am approaching it as it was written, as a piece of fiction. so! what's up with the incendiary misogyny charge? it's this: either the cardboard narrator (and boyle is cleverly exposing the misogyny of the times) or the writer himself has some serious ill-feeling about women, and it shows. it shows in the portrayals of the women, and it shows in the juxtaposition of highly-charged emotional moments with trivia. the women are portrayed as deeply icky. miriam, to whom the largest chunk of the book is given, is batshit. as well as vengeful, hateful, raging. and olga, who gets her share of rage, rage, rage. mamah is also pretty rageful, although she gets off lightest. even kitty, inoffensive kitty, is not ever full of righteous anger at a man who stepped out on her and then left her with children and tons of unpaid bills, but she is full of rage. no woman, however mistreated, is ever full of righteous anger. as if their anger is never justified, because, well, he's a genius and therefore beyond the judgement of a mere wife. however often he steps out, he's never betraying the most intimate of trusts, he's just swept away with love. however often he sloughs off all the cares of a very large household, he's just off being a genius in his studio. even when he finds his own children an irritating bore, it's just, well, his genius. it was a weird experience, reading this book: sort of like watching a train wreck, car by car by car, in slow motion. you really don't want to look, but you can't stop watching. nobody in this book comes off as a decent human being. in truth, nobody comes off as a real human being. 'cause real women are not this unidimensional, and even the most batshit narcissist occasionally has a kind thought and a friend or two. ah! i've got it: the bechdel test. the book utterly fails the bechdel test. named after Alison Bechdel, who proposes that movies be judged, in addition to other criteria, by these. 1. It has to have at least two women in it 2. Who talk to each other 3. About something besides a man this novel (and how can you do this in an entire novel?) fails, fails, fails.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan Chance

    I have always really really liked T.C. Boyle. I loved "The Inner Circle," and "Riven Rock," and "The Road to Wellville." I was hoping I would like "The Women" that much. I didn't, though I did ultimately like it. Boyle is a great writer--he has a way with description, dry humor, and emotional complexity. Settling in with him is like settling in with an old and beloved friend. I have always found his writing of the emotional landscape of women very real. But this book, which is about the women in I have always really really liked T.C. Boyle. I loved "The Inner Circle," and "Riven Rock," and "The Road to Wellville." I was hoping I would like "The Women" that much. I didn't, though I did ultimately like it. Boyle is a great writer--he has a way with description, dry humor, and emotional complexity. Settling in with him is like settling in with an old and beloved friend. I have always found his writing of the emotional landscape of women very real. But this book, which is about the women in Frank Lloyd Wright's life, fell oddly short for me. Each woman is given a POV (though his first wife, who was with him longest, and who bore him six children, is woefully misrepresented here--I think she has two or three scenes only), and Wright himself is also a narrator. The central conceit is that the novel is written by a former Japanese apprentice of Wright's. While his story is often more riveting than the one concerning the women in Wright's life, this seemed a strange choice. By his own claims, the narrator knew only one of Wright's women well, so one questions his veracity about the others from the start. Wright was clearly a selfish, arrogant womanizer who cared more about sating his appetites than the people he supposedly loved, and that comes across very well. But for me, the question of why these women stayed with him, why they loved him and stood by him even while he was destroying their lives, was never really answered. I never got a sense of his charisma or what inspired their devotion--and frankly, some of these women were unlikeable from the start, and the fact that I didn't get WHY they put up with it strained my sympathy for their travails just a bit. Boyle seems most fascinated by Miriam Noel--Wright's second wife, who was clearly bipolar, which adds a bizarreness to her scenes that is ultimately not very interesting. She has the most ink here--or seems to--and she is, frankly, the least sympathetic of the bunch. You sort of understood why he treated her the way he did. Boyle's discussion of this era in America, and how the Wright's perceived immorality affected him professionally was interesting. In the end, though, I had no real idea of the reasons Frank Lloyd Wright was the way he was, or why he treated women the way he did, or what he wanted from them. And, even given the historical differences, the devotion of the women in his life remains a mystery to me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    The structure of The Women, is both its strength and its weakness. In writing this fictionalized account of Frank LLoyd Wright's wives, lovers, and lovers who became wives, T.C. Boyle drops the reader right into the middle of Wright's life. However, it's not Wright's life that Boyle shines the spotlight on. By using a Japanese young man, an architect in training who has come to Taliesin to study with Wright, as a narrator, Boyle keeps a distance from the story that serves to make the events ring The structure of The Women, is both its strength and its weakness. In writing this fictionalized account of Frank LLoyd Wright's wives, lovers, and lovers who became wives, T.C. Boyle drops the reader right into the middle of Wright's life. However, it's not Wright's life that Boyle shines the spotlight on. By using a Japanese young man, an architect in training who has come to Taliesin to study with Wright, as a narrator, Boyle keeps a distance from the story that serves to make the events ring true. However, putting the chronlogical events in order often takes enough effort to pull a reader away from the story as he or she puzzles out what is going on when. Sato Tadashi, the young engineering intern who narrates the story, arrives at Taliesin more or less in midstream of Wright's life. He has separated from his first wife Kitty, lost the woman he left her for in a terrible massacre and fire engineered by a man who worked at Taliesin, become entangled with the vengeful Miriam, and ready to fall in love with the beautiful Olga. In fact, the story starts with the story of Olga and moves backwards in time. This device builds suspense, as Tadashi reveals what he knows and perceives. The rest, as they say, is history. Or at least historical fact. Fortunately for Boyle, Wright led an extremely public life, keeping the tabloids of his time afloat by trumpeting lurid stories about his liaisons and his attempts to keep his life private. The cable news channels can't hold a candle to these early tabloid reporters. Readers learn much about the day to day routine at Taliesin, a serenely beautiful estate built near Spring Green, Wisconsin, about Wright's miserly ways, his cranky genius, and the loyalty owed him by those who came into his orbit, no matter how despicably he treats them. As Boyle draws the story to an end, it builds with an almost unbearable tension because by readers know about the tragedy that is to come. When it does come Boyle depicts it in all its surreal, yet almost ordinary, horror. The four women who shared Wright's life were no ordinary women, as Wright was no ordinary man

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