The Women

The Women

by T. C. Boyle


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A “riveting” (Wall Street Journal) portrait of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life – 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth

Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in The Road to Wellville and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyle's incomparable account of Wright's life is told through the experiences of the four women who loved him. There's the Montenegrin beauty Olgivanna Milanoff, the passionate Southern belle Maude Miriam Noel, the tragic Mamah Cheney, and his young first wife, Kitty Tobin. Blazing with his trademark wit and inventiveness, Boyle deftly captures these very different women and the creative life in all its complexity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143116479
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/29/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 193,432
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

T.C. Boyle is an American novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published sixteen novels, most recently The Terranauts and The Harder They Come, and ten collections of short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his novel World’s End, and the Prix Médicis étranger for The Tortilla Curtain in 1995; his 2003 novel Drop City was a finalist for the National Book Award. His honors include the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the Henry David Thoreau Prize for excellence in nature writing, and the Rea Award for the Short Story.  He is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California and lives in Santa Barbara.


Santa Barbara California

Date of Birth:

December 2, 1948

Place of Birth:

Peekskill, New York


B.A. in music, State University of New York at Potsdam, 1970; Ph.D. in literature, Iowa University, 1977

Reading Group Guide

In a scene from T.C. Boyle’s The Women, Frank Lloyd Wright declares himself the greatest architect in the world. Wright was in court at the time and defended his claim to the judge by stating, “Well, Your Honor . . . I am under oath” (p. 380). While some might fault him for his arrogance, no one can deny that he remains one of modern architecture’s preeminent figures. In his day, however, he received as much publicity for his extramarital affairs as for his buildings. His romantic life was as flamboyantly unconventional as his creations, and the two were often deeply intertwined. Boyle, no stranger to eccentric historical figures, explores Wright’s private and public lives at their literal intersection: Taliesin, his thrice-destroyed Wisconsin estate-cum-love-nest, which he built (and rebuilt) for the women he loved.

While The Women’s obvious narrator would be Wright himself—or perhaps his various lovers—the work is instead narrated by one of Wright’s apprentices, Tadashi Sato. Annotated with Sato’s personal asides and clarifications, the novel explains that Tadashi’s original text was written in Japanese and translated into English by his Irish American grandson-in-law. Thus secure—we think—in the hands of its narrator, The Women launches into Wright’s affair with Olgivanna Milanoff, the last of his three wives.

Wright first meets Olga at an opera performance in Chicago. He is nearly sixty and she is much younger—though old enough to have married, borne a daughter, and become an acolyte of the mystic philosopher Gurdjieff. Entranced by her beauty and exotic carriage, Wright literally plucks her out of the audience and woos her into his bed and away to Taliesin. Unfortunately, he is still married to his previous wife, Maude Miriam Noel, who is enraged when she hears of the affair and leverages the not-inconsequential power of the press to sway public opinion—and the law—against Wright and his new lover.

Wright’s chronic indiscretion is his undoing. Miriam had left him to nurse her morphine addiction in California and might have remained ignorant of his new affair if he hadn’t impregnated Olga while claiming she was Taliesin’s housekeeper (this was, incidentally, the same uninspired cover he’d used years earlier for Miriam when she was his mistress and he was still married to his first wife). His equal in passion if not in brilliance, Miriam was once a celebrated Southern belle and later a sculptress in Paris who insinuated herself into his life at a time when Wright was grieving for an earlier mistress—the brutally murdered Mamah Borthwick.

It was for Mamah that Wright had left Kitty Tobin, his wife of twenty years and the mother of his six children. Savaged by the press—as Miriam and Olga would be in their turn—Mamah was an early feminist who abandoned her own husband and two children to be with Wright. It was also for Mamah that he broke ground for the first incarnation of Taliesin. There, sheltered from society and their spouses’ recriminations, the two found happiness until an axe-wielding madman cut it all short.

Boyle has won wide acclaim for powerfully told tales peopled by characters outside the mainstream. In Wright, he has found an ideal subject—a man as compelling personally as professionally, whose hubris was as prodigious as his achievements and passions—and the result is a sly, revelatory portrait of a quintessentially American genius.


T.C. Boyle has written eleven novels, including The Road to Wellville, about John Harvey Kellogg, the eccentric nutritionist and inventor of cornflakes, and The Inner Circle, about sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey. Among his other novels are World’s End, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award; Drop City, a National Book Award finalist; and The Tortilla Curtain, winner of France’s Prix Médicis Étranger. He has also published eight collections of short fiction, and his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, and the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Awards annual volumes. He lives in Santa Barbara, California, in the George C. Stewart house, the first of Frank Lloyd Wright’s California designs, which will celebrate its centennial in 2009.

Q. How long have you lived in the George C. Stewart house? What is it like to inhabit a Wright design?

My wife and I and our three children have lived here for sixteen years. During that time we have done out best to restore it, a task that included sanding and refinishing the woodwork with Wright’s own mixture of linseed oil and turpentine, doing an earthquake retrofit and jacking up the east end of the house, which had been listing toward the rising sun, in order to pour foundations. The experience of living here is otherwise rich and varied, the landscape lush, the lines of the house, with its layered battens, as dramatic as those of an Aztec temple. In short, it’s pretty cool.

Q. Did you always plan to write a novel about Wright? What draws you to a particular subject?

Ever since we moved in, I’d wanted to learn as much as I could about the architect, by way of understanding and appreciating how his genius had touched us personally. Throughout my time here I had contemplated writing about aspects of his furiously complicated life and work, but other books and subjects intervened. Finally, in 2006, I began research and completed writing in July, a year later.

Q. In addition to Wright, you’ve also written novels about John Harvey Kellogg and Alfred C. Kinsey. If you had to choose between being Kellogg, Kinsey, or Wright, whom would you pick and why?

Each of these three hugely influential figures of the twentieth century was an egomaniac and a narcissist who could not relate to people except as they fit into his scheme. Novelists are a lot like that. Which is why, I suppose, I am attracted to such figures. On the other hand, each led a life that would have put me in the mental hospital within a year. So, I’ll equivocate: none of the above.

Q. What’s more fun to write, historical or contemporary fiction? What kind of obligation do you feel to a historical subject (e.g. Wright)?

I get a charge (obviously) out of both the contemporary and historical settings. In fact, creating art—living in a dream most of the days of my life—is a kind of miracle I will never tire of. As for my obligation to historical subjects, I feel no constraints whatever and follow the path the story lays out for me. That said, I do like to present these odd characters and odd bits of history as they actually happened for the great good fun of it. To my mind, history wasn’t necessarily made by generals and politicians, but by visionaries who changed the way we live and think. Wright, Kellogg and Kinsey certainly qualify in spades.

Q. Can you discuss your choice of narrator? Was there a real Tadashi Sato?

Tadashi Sato is an invented character, but of course the apprenticeship was international, and Wright was very much influenced by Japanese culture and architecture. If Tadashi didn’t actually exist, then he should have. Certainly there were any number of acolytes flocking to Taliesin to bask in the aura of the great man, and I like to think that Tadashi is representative of them.

Q. In the course of your research, what was the most revealing thing you discovered about Wright? What nonfiction resources would you recommend to someone interested in learning more about him?

The thing that most interested me about Wright was how different his method of creation was from my own. I need peace, serenity, beauty, a good dog, and a good night’s sleep in order to create. Wright needed scandal, lawsuits, animus, tumult, mayhem, and catastrophe just to feel alive and engaged. God bless him. It takes all kinds. As for nonfiction works on Wright, they are innumerable—perhaps more books have been published on him and his work than practically any other figure of the past century, some one thousand or more. I list a number of the more engaging titles in my acknowledgments.

Q. Miriam’s presence dominates the book, inhabiting a good many of the chapters about Olga and closing Mamah’s section. Did she similarly dominate Wright’s life? Are the excerpts of Miriam’s letters real or did you create them?

Miriam came to dominate my life as well. She was a furious, heartbreaking, delusional and grandiose woman, and yet she was afflicted by the same needs and hungers that afflict us all: the need for security, love, affirmation. Make of her a figure of fun but also, on a deeper level, of tragedy. As for her letters, some are invented (after her style) and some paraphrased from the actual letters which were printed in the newspapers. Her scandals—and those of Olgivanna, Kitty and Mamah—made for the juiciest tabloid reading of the day.

Q. Why did you choose not to include more about Kitty and Wright’s first family?

This phase of Wright’s life, when he used his prodigious energies and genius to formulate his Prairie style and build the majority of his houses in the Midwest, could take up a book all on its own. But the story is more conventional than what was to follow and, perhaps, not quite as compelling or racy or tragic.

Q. In a footnote, you make a little dig at your own profession, writing, in describing one of Wright’s casual lovers: “like all novelists, she had unrealistic expectations” (p. 27). Do you think that authors tend to be more demanding in a romantic relationship than other people?

Authors tend to be more demanding in all modes of life than other people. They are, like Miriam, delusional. And they are, for the most part, not a pretty lot at all. Are there exceptions? Are there novelists as pure and shot-through with benignity as the saints themselves? Well, maybe one.

Q. In your view, are there similarities between writing fiction and architecture?

But of course. The architect constructs his drawings from the same sort of vision a novelist sees as he/she begins to construct a story with the bricks and mortar of words. The difference is in the improvisation. The architect, finally, works from plans, but we build our word-houses day by day, adding by accretion (and sometimes reducing by subtraction) until the ultimate shape reveals itself.

Q. What are you working on now?

Ah, what pure joy! Work is the essence of my life and the reason I am able to face the world each day (without coffee: I was born naturally caffeinated). For next year, I’ve already delivered a book of fourteen stories called Wild Child. For the following year, if the fates allow, I hope to present my next novel, now about halfway finished. It’s called When the Killing’s Done, and it has a contemporary setting and returns to the theme that seems to dominate my work in recent years: our place in nature.

  • Imagine that you are Olga arriving at Taliesin for the first time, knowing everything you do about its previous two incarnations and the women who inspired them. What would you be feeling?
  • How does Boyle’s choice of narrator affect your reading of the novel?
  • Miriam’s first argument with Wright is over the fancy French meal she serves him. In what ways did his taste in food shape the major events of his life?
  • If Mamah hadn’t been murdered, might she and Wright have stayed happily together? What do you think of Ellen Key’s assertion that women have “the right to love in their own instinctual way”? (p. 385). Does this include adultery and abandoning her children?
  • Just before Miriam marries Wright, she reads her own translation of a Japanese poem: “The memories of long love,/gather like drifting snow . . . poignant as the Mandarin ducks/who float side by side in sleep” (p. 306). Mamah had translated a Goethe poem for Wright: “Call it happiness! . . . Heart! Love! God!/I have no name/For it! Feeling is everything!” (p. 352). What does each quote tell about the woman who chose it?
  • Do you think Wright ever found his soulmate?
  • Consider Wright’s flagrant solicitation of loans he never intended to repay. Does a visionary owe a greater obligation to his art or to the social contract?
  • What do you make of Wright’s demand for exemplary behavior—no drinking, carousing, or romantic entanglements outside marriage—from his apprentices?
  • Have you ever visited a Wright building? If so, describe the experience.
  • Does Boyle’s portrait of Wright accord with your own notions about the architect?
  • Do you read many novels about historical figures? What kind of entrée does fiction provide that mere fact cannot?

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Women 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 131 reviews.
jblickman More than 1 year ago
This is my first TC Boyle book but it wont be my last. I saw the movie ¿Road to Wellville¿ and was not impressed but I am now interested in reading the book. I was lead to the ¿The Woman¿ after reading the excellent ¿Loving Frank.¿ Prior to this I did not know much about Frank Lloyd Wright other than he was a famous architect, and I had no idea about his interesting love life. Both books are really about the women in his life. ¿Loving Frank¿ is really about irrepressible and unconventional Mamah Cheney, but ¿The Women¿ is Mr. Wright brought to life through the eyes of the four woman who love him: Olgivanna Milanoff; Maud Miriam Noel, Mamah Cheney, and his first wife, Kitty Tobin. Wright is a bigger than life figure who¿s story today is just as fascinating as it was back in the first half of the 20th century. One of the original modern celebrities, but unlike most of today¿s fakers this man had real talent. The heart of this story though his Boyle¿s writing and how he brings these unconventional characters to life. You can tell he has done his research and knows his subject, but with his fiction he brings these people to life in away that dry nonfiction can never do. Boyle creates living breathing characters from the historical record and takes us inside their minds. How can he really know these peoples inner most thoughts? This does not really matter for the truth of what he has created jumps off the page. Sometimes fiction does a better job of revealing truth than historical facts. I look forward to reading Boyle¿s earlier works! For more excellent historical fiction do try Misfits Country Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable brought to life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thesis style writing with footnotes was bothersome. Not much insight on the heart and soul of Frank himself. Slow beginning but did pick up toward the end at which point I was very interested. (However, I was not particularly drawn to the book).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had trouble keeping my attention. The author wrote long, and unnecessary descriptions of almost everything and it seemed to be more of a screenplay than a novel (leave some things up to the reader's imagination, please!). I certainly don't expect simple language in a novel, but does a reader need a thesaurus to get through a book just so the author can sound sophisticated? Not a favorite.
Mariposa More than 1 year ago
I thought the information provided about Frank Lloyd Wright was interesting to say the least, but the way the story was put together didn't work for me. The sequencing of events was confusing/annoying. I pushed myself to finish the book. I think I would have preferred a non-fiction account.
PhotoLily More than 1 year ago
One of the worst books I've read. I only finished it because of the hype when it first came out (I figured it had to get better). Dull read and uninspired writting; sorry I spent money on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As somewhat of a scholar on Frank Lloyd Wright, I find the book enjoyable as the author fictionalizes the relationships between Wright and three women in his life. Because it weaves together reality with fantasy, I recommend it with the caveat that the reader understands this genre of writing.
NancyT More than 1 year ago
It's kind of a rip off on Loving Frank, the book about Mammah and FLW. I agree with one of the other reviewers that this book is hard to follow as it jumps from woman to woman and back to woman to woman. It is also hard to tell who is telling the story. If you think you want to read this, check it out at the library, save your money. And if you like FLW, you must read Loving Frank.
Pewaukeepen More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book from the first few paragraphs. The connection between "Frank" and each of these ladies amazes me. Could you find more opposing personalities? Can you believe that anyone could survive all the drama and unpaid bills and come out of it with his "great" reputation? It is my first T.C. Boyle book. It won't be the last.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really interested in this book both from a recomendation based on an NPR interview and the fact that I am interested in the designs of Wright's. I am sorry that I purchased this book. The style is hard to follow. I have not even finished it because it did not keep my attention. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were not in the semi-biographical style with the footnotes. I wish that I had just borrowed it from the library were I could have returned it.
skb More than 1 year ago
Maybe it's because I bought this in audiobook form, but I was very disappointed the way the book was written. I thought something monumental was going to happen and that's why the story started "backward." It also tended to go off on a tangent with a character's background history to the point where I thought "Huh, what's going on? Did I miss something?" I think the editor was asleep on this project too. Though I had to finish it, I thought the book dreary and uninteresting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting read but a bit confusing..the author wrote in reverse chronology. He did not give equal time to each wife/lover. He gave a good sense of what it must have been like to live at Taliesin. There are a lot of facts used in the novel as well as the author's keen imagination. However, I found that I had to push myself to complete the book.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because I have long had a fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright. The women of the title are his first wife, Kitty, his mistress, Mamah Borthwicke Cheney, his third wife, Mariam, and his fourth wife, Olgivvanna. While the book is definitely better than Nancy Horan's Loving Frank, which I read about a year ago, it has several odd flaws.First, Boyle starts with a fictional narrator, one of Wright's young Japanese apprentices; but this narrator comes and goes. After all, since he doesn't arrive at Taliesin until the 1940s, where Wright was ensconced with his third wife, there's no way that Tadashi can relate the stories of the Mrs. Wrights #1 and #2 or of Mamah Cheney. So at one moment we're getting his point of view, and at the next we're shifting to an omniscient third person narrator. Add to this that I don't think Tadashi really adds much to the story, aside from being able to describe the milieu of Taliesin and, at one point, to reveal that the supposedly liberal-minded Wright had some racist inclinations. Tadashi's own romances and marriage and a brief reference to a stint in an internment camp are stuck in without really adding much to the novel.The plot jumps from one time frame to another, again with no clear intention. While it seems that Boyle is working backwards through the women in Wright's life, there are frequent leaps, both backwards and forwards in time, within each woman's story. One might think that Boyle is trying to illustrate a pattern in Wright's affairs or the type of woman to whom he was attracted, but such a pattern never becomes clear.Overall, I'd have to say that this was fairly interesting reading but perhaps trying a bit too hard to be something more than just a good piece of fictionalized biography.
loosha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marriage and love certainly do have a relationship, and strange bedfellows they may be. This is the fictionalized biography of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright's four 'women': his first young wife and mother of his children, Kitty; her friend Mamah - liberated free-thinking translator of Ellen Key's feminist ideas; the notorious drug-addicted hateful Miriam; and finally the exotic Olgivanna. Every one of them tortured in her own way by Frank's arrogance and by the slavering gossip-loving press of the day.Arrogance is at the center of Frank's personality. He sees to the common little people as a different species subject to laws that should not, could not be applied to a genius such as himself. Look after the luxuries, he says, and the necessities will take care of themselves. `Slow-pay Frank`his employees call him.The book is written in a kind of reverse cronological order, which ends up making sense. Of course the best ending is Mamah`s dramatic story, so I can see why the author chose this structure. The narrator`s voice works, especially with the many curious footnotes. ****
fig2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fictional account of the true facts of Frank Lloyd Wright's life, The Women shines. Told mainly through the eyes of his three wives and one mistress, Wright becomes larger than life in his passion for his art, his lust for life and his need for the women who surround him. Marked by amazing success and tragedy beyond bearing, Wright's story is fascinating and even though you would rather nor, you end up liking him. T. C. Boyle is an incomparable writer and it is a true treat to read this remarkable novel. I loved it!
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having just returned from my time living in Chicago I was highly intrigued to read Boyle's novel about Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life. Despite the fact that it took me time to finish, it was a fascinating read and I was particularly captivated by Mamah Bothwick. Boyle did a great job of making it all interesting, whether or not it was true.
shanjan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Women by TC Boyle the historical fiction account of the women in Frank LLyod Wright's life outside of his marriage with Catherine Wright. Boyle's narrator tells the story in reverse chronological order which is a wise choice because the most sensational part of the story would take place in the beginning third of the novel and the latter two thirds would seem quite anti-climactic.The downfall of the novel is the narrator who is a Japanese apprentice who lives at the Taliesen compound for a relatively short period of time. Because the narrator was not with Wright over the course of the novel, his information then comes from an Irish biographer grandson-in-law. The whole mechanism is very convoluted and does not give the reader the sense of an eye-witness account that I suspect was Boyle's intention.In addition to the odd choice of narrator, a further distraction lies in the narrator's use of footnotes, which are his own personal asides. The are supposed to be informative and/or witty, but they are simply odd and off-putting. The ultimate effect is that the reader is frequently pulled back to reality and reminded that this is a fictional account of what happened which makes the story less gripping.This is unfortunate because the material Boyle has been given is really rich. When the reader is not being thrust back into reality by Boyle's odd conventions the story is compelling and we learn not only about these three very different women, but through their eyes we get a glimpse of who Wright may have been in his private life.How much credit should be given to Boyle for this story is not clear. The bare bones of this novel were gifted to him by the actions of real people, and while his ability to fill in the gaps that history has left creates a fluid and interesting novel, his prose lacks a lyrical quality and a certain depth. As readers we are given very little insight on how the lives and choices of these characters translate into the humanness that connects us all regardless of social and chronological differences. Sometimes a novel is so enjoyable that one is able to overlook it's shortcomings, but that is not the case with The Women. While it would probably be enjoyable for those who already have an interest in Wright, it's faults cause it to miss its mark with the average reader.
idiotgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Audiobook. I adore the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I read "Loving Frank"--based on biography--and leaned that he's not exactly a nice guy. That book focuses on his first mistress who was murdered. This book tells the story of Momah but also his final two wives. Probably wouldn't finish the book if I wasn't interested in Wright. I didn't do this for Boyle. The somewhat interesting narrative technique here: the story is told by a Japanese interna who works with Wright for years until WW2 engulfs him. He collaborates on his story of Wright with the husband of his Japanese daughter (the "author" loves an American but marries a Japanese woman, in large part because Wright, the Japanese lover, doesn't want his Japanese intern involved with an American girl) who is Irish. I'm not entirely sure what this is all about. But the story of the author is an additional story in the book. I finished the book--largely because I love Wright's architecture. And now I'm interested in that poor murdered woman. But I still don't think this is about Boyle. So I think that's my review.
etimme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written book. This was my first introduction to Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, and the author does a good job of shedding a different perspective on the master by looking at the women in his life. Of course, the novel is fiction, so as a reader I'm not sure what I have taken away from it.Wright is presented to us by Boyle as a genius with an incredible passion that spans both his professional and personal life. In an age of modesty he goes against social norms and follows his heart and lets everyone else be damned, especially his creditors. The great love of his life is brutally murdered, and he's then set upon by a vengeful, unstable woman with whom he shares a fiery marriage. I like to think that, as told by Boyle, Wright finds again a match for his soul once he escapes the unstable Miriam, and ends his life happy.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿The Women¿ in the recent book by TC Boyle are the three wives that occupied much of the adult life of super architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This is familiar territory for TC Boyle, who recently chronicled the life of sex research pioneer Alfred Kinsey. In fact, there are some important parallels between the men. Both were driven to be the best at what they did, both were impatient task masters with their workers, both inspired these same workers to be virtual servants. In important ways, both men attracted groupies¿both male and female. The morality of both men also caused them serious problems and both struggled mightily against the puritanical prudishness of Middle America in the first half of the twentieth century. Both men also strayed from their wives. But while Kinsey remained more or less devoted to one woman, Wright was more of a serial monogamist. In particular, the three women he chose to marry each changed his life in major and often unpredictable ways. The way that Boyle tells the Wright story is also distinctive. He gives each of the three wives a major section to tell her story and he begins with wife number three and works backward in time to Wright¿s first wife. The fact that we learn about Wright through his wives produces a memorable kind of biography. I kept feeling like Wright was being built up from the inside out, where we get interpretations of his feelings and emotions and attitudes but always one step removed from the author of these attitudes and emotions. The biography is rendered even more complex by the fact that each wife has a distinctly different image of Wright and because the story is told through the wives¿ eyes, we never really know if these differences are produced by their differing interpretations or because Wright really was s different person in each relationship. One thing about Wright is clear: he needed a woman in his life. He was clearly incomplete without a female companion and despite the enormous pain that the women in his life caused him, he remained utterly devoted to the transformative hope of marriage. And perhaps one of his strongest characteristics as a human being is that he inspired women to love him¿sometimes too deeply and destructively for anyone¿s own good. Boyle¿s decision to reverse the order of the wives in time also works as a literary strategy. While the chronological order complicates the story telling, it provides a very natural, and in the end, very moving progression. And above all this is a well written account, packed full of sentences like this: ¿The sky hadn¿t yet gone fully dark¿it was a deep glowing tincture, of cobalt shading to black in the east, a western sky, poked through with the glittering holes of the stars¿but the grounds were dense with shadow.¿ You come for the story but stay for the writing.
flashflood42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A tour-de-force. Boyle takes on the voices of Wright's women--his crazy, self-centered mistress Miriam, a more manipulative, vicious woman I've seldom met in literature or in life, his lovely mistress Mamah, and his wife who bore him many children but got nothing at all from him. Whether the noveistl creates these women accurately, I have no idea, but I couldn'[t put it down. Boyle's use of foreshadowing--we know about what happens to Mamah and Taliesin as we begin but we don't get to see those years in Wright's life even though they preceded the arrival of Miriam until the end of the novel. Somehow this kind of liberty with the narrative chronology worked wonderfully. It's a powerful book about a man I can't imagine loving, a life I can't imagine living, and at least one woman whom I detested yet who fascinated me that she could be so detestable, such a fraud, yet manage to "get" Wright.I've lent it to my friend Barbara Putnam though told her that it would not help her understand Wright as an architect--but perhaps it might shine light on him as a person.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this novel, the author works on the daunting task of a creating a fiction based on actual people and events ¿ specifically the life of Frank Lloyd Wright in regards to the significant women in his life. We don¿t see much of his first wife, but we become very well acquainted with his first mistress (Mamah Borthwick Cheney) and his second and third wives (Maude Miriam Noel and Olgivanna Milanoff). All of the characters are well-developed and interesting in their own way. However, the way the story is told is a big downfall for this book. The narrative is framed as a true account by one of Wright¿s former apprentices Tadashi Sato, loosely translated by Sato¿s grandson-in-law, Seamus O¿Flaherty. As the bulk of the book is presumably written by O¿Flaherty, Tadashi likes to throw in his two cents with a footnote clarifying or expanding upon certain bits of information. However, with a footnote on nearly every page, it becomes annoying for the narrative to be interrupted so many times. Broken up into three parts (one for each of the women), Tadashi has a long introduction to each section of the book, in which he discusses events from when he was an apprentice to Wright. This makes for an odd chronology to begin with, further added to by the fact that the author chose to write backwards in time, beginning with Wright¿s last wife and working his way back to his first affair. This renders many of the events in the book (especially the shocking end to Wright¿s first affair) anticlimactic, as the reader has already had generous helpings of hints about these events. This also lends itself to gaps in the actual events, as certain sequences are skipped over because they do not fit into this fractured narrative (For instance, in the first section we find Wright and his second wife are already separated; at the end of the second section they are just getting married. The reason for the split is never clearly illuminated). I¿m not sure what the author was trying to accomplish with this unconventional narrative (unless it was simply to be unconventional), but I think the story is interesting enough to be told in a straightforward manner (and indeed, would have benefited from this).
solicitouslibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing--vivid, real. I forgot that I was reading a novel instead of the biography of Wright that the book purports to be. The structure, stories within stories, is ambitious and smart. It also sparked some interest in Wright's life, which appears to have been quite tumultuous. And no wonder he was able to accomplish so much--he had an entire staff taking care of him.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have a bit of a star-struck love for TC Boyle, but this novel made my head buzz with the pestering question: 'Why?' Frank Lloyd Wright is entirely hate-able and without merit. That doesn't by any means immediately discount the story, but there isn't anything to balance his objectionable personality. The women in his life--from whose perspective, via an interstitial Japanese apprentice intern narrator, this novel is built--are little better. Miriam, FLW's second wife, is repellent enough to be laughably unrealistic.The tale, told in reverse-chronological order, unwinds the dramatic coil of Wright's libido, which apparently ran rampant and unchecked through the first half of the 20th century. His ego borders on the ludicrous and incredible, making the motives of his fawning paramours hard to reconcile. There are pockets of sensitivity and good historical insight, but the majority of the book involves jilted lovers and wives stomping around and dropping ultimatums and hiring lawyers. Boyle does have a good ability to jibe smartly at the pseudo-ennobling movements of the early 20th century--those apotheosized under the banner of artistic license and the elevation of romantic love, but as shallow and baseless as the institutions they seek to shatter. Wright's use of free love tenets coming back to bite him are priceless. But mostly this novel creates a gnawing, loveless null.
michigantrumpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this book in conjunction with a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, designed in the midst of some of the events described in this fictionalized account of FLW's amorous life with four diffent women. A solid background (or even interest) in architecture is not required to enjoy this book. I enjoyed the literary device of reverse chronology, which provides foreshadowing and tension regarding the tragic events of Mamah Borthwick's demise. Less entrancing was the use of a fictional Japanese apprentice narrator. I found his presence off-putting and his many added footnotes completely annoying. T. C. Boyle is a skillful writer, clearly capable of integrating his scholarship on FLW with out this device which detracts from the immediacy of a very interesting and arresting story. Some reviewers might have found FLW to be arrogant, personally and fina cially reprehensible. In this Boyle has been largely true to life. The internet has some videos of interviews conducted late FLW's life - his ego, either in truth or affected for publicity purposes, is fully evident.
knithappened on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading TC Boyle's "Tortilla Curtain" and loving it so much that it is on my top 10 all-time favorite list, I expected to thoroughly enjoy "The Women." However, I did not. In fact, I ended up reading it in two stages, months apart. Although Boyle writes with such insight, the technique in which he tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright and his "women" put me off. The story is told from the perspective of one of his apprentices, Tadashi Sato, and is shared chronologically backwards. As I read, I wished that instead of each 'woman's' story being told in the third person, it was relayed first hand by them as the first person. The reader does get the gist of how repetitive the loves of Wright were, and how all of them excused his treatment of them on behalf of genius. He was a larger than life figure and I did appreciate that fact. After reading "Loving Frank" last year and enjoying Nancy Horan's depiction of Wright's life with his mistress Mamah, it might have also tainted my view of Boyle's book. However, I did learn an interesting fact: Wright's second son Lloyd was the creator and founder of Lincoln Logs.