R&R 038 | The Women
The photo is a tribute of sorts to Maude Miriam Noel.
First published in: February 2009
This edition: review copy
T. Coraghessan Boyle is a familiar name to me, but I must confess: I have never read any of his books – until now. When his 12th novel “The Women” was available for review, I signed up because I felt it would be challenging – and I love a good challenge.
“The Women” tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), famous for his exceptional skills in architectural design, infamous for his relationships with the women in his life: Kitty, Mamah, Miriam and Olgivanna.
Wright abandoned his first wife Kitty to be with Mamah. It was not meant to be; Mamah was tragically murdered at Wright’s estate Taliesin. Soon after this horrendous event he met Miriam, and after several passionate years together, they married. But their marriage collapsed quickly; Wright moved on to be with Olgivanna, leaving Miriam bitter and hell-bent on destroying Wright and his last wife.
Four entirely different women, all of them having loved Frank Lloyd Wright. Curiosity seized me; what was it about him that made him so appealing to each of these women?
Apart from that, I was interested in Boyle writing this story in particular. Knowing the author to live in a house designed by Wright (the George C. Stewart house), I wanted to see how Boyle would handle the story of the architect responsible for designing what Boyle now considers his home.
I have to hand it to Boyle, he did not fawn over Wright in admiration but remained critical, painting what seems to be a realistic picture of Wright, who was quite a character, replacing one woman for another without hesitation and forever using people for money he would not repay (...etcetera). Not the easiest person to be objective about, but Boyle managed. Narrated by a fictional ‘former apprentice’ of Wright’s, “The Women” could pass for an authentic biography, even though it is for the larger part a work of interpretation.
A skill of admirable quality I have noticed Boyle to possess, is the ability to empathize with the variety of people featured in this book, from the narrator to his second wife Miriam. (Oh, Miriam, how I loved to hate you. With a flair for drama, she stole the show, that’s for sure.)
I would say “The Women” has all the elements of a soap opera (e.g. drama and intrigue), but the difference is that “The Women” is actually well written as well as very engaging. Whether you are familiar with Wright’s architecture and interested in his life and work, or if you’re on the look out for a fascinating story of passion, “The Women” is a book for you to consider.
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