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Loving Frank

What are you currently reading?

“The most recent book I read was Loving Frank — it’s a novel by Nancy Horan.”

Tell me about it.

“It’s basically a novel about the events in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, in particular, an affair he had with a woman named Mamah Cheney. Both Wright and Cheney left their families and basically set up house together. She was an upper-class woman, and he was a famous architect. She ended up getting a divorce. Those things just weren’t done back then. The story had a tragic ending: Cheney — together with her two children from her husband who were visiting for the summer — was killed in a brutal way by one of their employees. He was obviously crazy — he also killed several other employees on the property.”

What do you make of the plot?

“It’s a true story, but it’s written as historical fiction. Horan draws from letters between Wright and Cheney, and from other research, and imagines the conversations they might have had. Wright is very well known, but Cheney has kind of been forgotten, and Haron brings her back. I got into the book because I was interested in architecture. I liked the way it described Wright’s inspirations for his designs — the way he combined nature and architecture in a seamless way, using lots of glass to bring the outdoors inside.”

Did you have a favorite character?

“That would have to be Cheney. She was an educated woman, and at the time, women could basically be teachers — they didn’t have many choices. She got married, had children, and felt very confined by her life — she always wanted more. She lived in the Midwest, and she met Wright because he was hired to design a home for her husband and her. She was drawn to this brilliant man because she herself was also brilliant, and she didn’t have a creative outlet.

“Leaving her family was a huge, hard decision. Her own children were young at the time, and Wright had something like six kids. In society, she would have been thought to be the harlot, but Horan was sympathetic — trying to explain why she did what she did, her reasons for making the decision. Especially since it was so out of the ordinary at the time.”

Compare this with other books you’ve read.

“It was definitely out of the ordinary for me. I normally read straight fiction. But then, I’m not reading much of anything these days because of the time I need to spend with my kids.”

What book has been most life-changing for you?

“I guess I love Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken.’ That’s a great one. I read it in middle school, but it’s so apropos. I think you can always think about different paths that you can choose in your life. I’ve been pretty adventurous; I’ve taken a lot of paths. I’ve done different jobs, and I’ve lived everywhere, from Europe, to the Midwest, to the Pacific Northwest, to the South, to the Northeast, and now, Southern California. I have no regrets.”

Do you have any favorite authors?

“I really like Bill Bryson — he writes travel memoirs.”

What magazines or newspapers do you read? How many articles do you read to the end?

“I read Vanity Fair, and maybe sometimes O, the Oprah magazine. Not really any newspapers. I’ll read maybe three or four articles through to the end.”

Do you talk to friends and family about reading?

“I’ve never been part of a book club. I talk to my husband about reading, but he enjoys more fact-based books — tales of explorers in the New World. He hasn’t read Loving Frank yet, but I’ve set it aside for him.”

Name: Tanya Finlaly | Age: 39 | Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Neighborhood: Rancho Santa Fe | Where interviewed: University Towne Centre

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What are you currently reading?

“The most recent book I read was Loving Frank — it’s a novel by Nancy Horan.”

Tell me about it.

“It’s basically a novel about the events in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, in particular, an affair he had with a woman named Mamah Cheney. Both Wright and Cheney left their families and basically set up house together. She was an upper-class woman, and he was a famous architect. She ended up getting a divorce. Those things just weren’t done back then. The story had a tragic ending: Cheney — together with her two children from her husband who were visiting for the summer — was killed in a brutal way by one of their employees. He was obviously crazy — he also killed several other employees on the property.”

What do you make of the plot?

“It’s a true story, but it’s written as historical fiction. Horan draws from letters between Wright and Cheney, and from other research, and imagines the conversations they might have had. Wright is very well known, but Cheney has kind of been forgotten, and Haron brings her back. I got into the book because I was interested in architecture. I liked the way it described Wright’s inspirations for his designs — the way he combined nature and architecture in a seamless way, using lots of glass to bring the outdoors inside.”

Did you have a favorite character?

“That would have to be Cheney. She was an educated woman, and at the time, women could basically be teachers — they didn’t have many choices. She got married, had children, and felt very confined by her life — she always wanted more. She lived in the Midwest, and she met Wright because he was hired to design a home for her husband and her. She was drawn to this brilliant man because she herself was also brilliant, and she didn’t have a creative outlet.

“Leaving her family was a huge, hard decision. Her own children were young at the time, and Wright had something like six kids. In society, she would have been thought to be the harlot, but Horan was sympathetic — trying to explain why she did what she did, her reasons for making the decision. Especially since it was so out of the ordinary at the time.”

Compare this with other books you’ve read.

“It was definitely out of the ordinary for me. I normally read straight fiction. But then, I’m not reading much of anything these days because of the time I need to spend with my kids.”

What book has been most life-changing for you?

“I guess I love Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken.’ That’s a great one. I read it in middle school, but it’s so apropos. I think you can always think about different paths that you can choose in your life. I’ve been pretty adventurous; I’ve taken a lot of paths. I’ve done different jobs, and I’ve lived everywhere, from Europe, to the Midwest, to the Pacific Northwest, to the South, to the Northeast, and now, Southern California. I have no regrets.”

Do you have any favorite authors?

“I really like Bill Bryson — he writes travel memoirs.”

What magazines or newspapers do you read? How many articles do you read to the end?

“I read Vanity Fair, and maybe sometimes O, the Oprah magazine. Not really any newspapers. I’ll read maybe three or four articles through to the end.”

Do you talk to friends and family about reading?

“I’ve never been part of a book club. I talk to my husband about reading, but he enjoys more fact-based books — tales of explorers in the New World. He hasn’t read Loving Frank yet, but I’ve set it aside for him.”

Name: Tanya Finlaly | Age: 39 | Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Neighborhood: Rancho Santa Fe | Where interviewed: University Towne Centre

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