But do these wrongs add up to Wright?

2010-05-05 00:00


The Women

T. C. Boyle


DURING his lifetime architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright was as ­famous for his not exactly private life as for his revolutionary building ­designs.

During his first marriage his mistress Mamah Borthwick Cheney was murdered with an axe along with her two children and four other people at the Wright home in Wisconsin, Taliesin, which was also burnt down by the killer. It would burn down again, thanks to faulty wiring, shortly after the arrival of Wright’s wife-to-be number three.

Wright was married three times in all — to Catherine Kitty Tobin, Maude Miriam Noel and Olgivanna Lazovich Milanoff.

Wright’s marital and extra-marital behaviour might not raise many eyebrows today but in the first half of the 20th century his behaviour scandalised Wisconsin’s conservative rural community and provided steady copy for the tabloid press. The authorities even investigated prosecution for immorality.

Creative energy and sexual drive provide a potent brew for a novel but T. C. Boyle’s approach undercuts his material as he tells the story of Wright and his assorted wives and mistresses in extended flashbacks and flash-forwards. Oblique and over-written, what should have been a compelling read fails to ignite interest let alone passion.

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