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The Women: A Novel Paperback – December 29, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The genius of Frank Lloyd Wright was both magnetic and cruel, as evidenced by the succession of failed marriages and hot-blooded affairs depicted in this biographic reimagining that drills into Wright mythology and the dark shadows of the American dream. The narrative moves backwards in time through the accounts of four women in Wrights life: Olgivanna, the steely, grounded dancer from Montenegro; Miriam, the drug-addled narcissist from the South; Kitty, the devoted first wife; and Mamah, the beloved and murdered soul mate and intellectual companion. But the novels centerpiece is Taliesin, Wrights Oz-like Wisconsin home. The tragedies that befall Taliesin—fires, brutality—serve as proxy for Wrights inner turmoil; his deeper stirrings surface only occasionally from behind Boyles oft-overbearing depiction of Wrights women. The most engaging person is Tadashi Sato, the Japanese-American apprentice and narrator who emerges via his frequent footnotes as a complex reflection of Wrieto-san and, with his inability to remain objective and his evolving view of Wright and Wrights image, becomes the books most dynamic character. Its a lush, dense and hyperliterate book—in other words, vintage Boyle. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Boyle�s latest novel takes on the architect Frank Lloyd Wright by examining his notoriously tumultuous relationships with four women, each unique in her own histrionic way. Narrated in reverse chronological order by a fictional Japanese apprentice, the book is extremely readable and deftly builds a portrait of the artist as pure egoist. Unfortunately, the novel avoids any sustained consideration of Wright�s relationship to his art�a passion arguably more important in forming his genius than any of the women in his life were. Still, it proves an effective showcase for Boyle�s own strengths as a craftsman. His prose is full of vivid descriptions and turns of phrase that pop with a preternatural precision.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143116479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143116479
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Frank Lloyd Wright's turbulently scandalous love life is novelized with flamboyant style by T. C. Boyle in The Women: A Novel. As a literary device, Boyle invents a Japanese apprentice of Wright's, Sato Tadashi, who "slaved" at Taliesin in the 1930s. Tadashi acts as a host to guide readers into Wright's complicated, overlapping relations with three wives and a mistress. Writing from Japan in 1979, Tadashi introduces and footnotes sections featuring Olgivanna Milanoff Wright, Miriam Noel Wright, and Mamah Borthwick Cheney with his own recollections about life with "Wrieto-San." He says he knows there will be complaints about the interpretations of people and events. And he isn't sure he really knew Wright: "Was he the wounded genius or the philanderer and sociopath who abused the trust of practically everyone he knew, especially the women, especially them?"

Boyle's Tadashi presents himself as a young, idealistic Wright acolyte who displays some of the Master's arrogance and style, but who, in his apprentice role, also feels the pain of the high-handedness with which Frank and Olgivanna run their household. The older Tadashi, looking back years after Wright's death, mixes admiration with knowing cynicism about the man.

The author also elects to tell his story in reverse. The scandals and humiliations of Wright and his third wife, Olgivanna, open the novel. Wife number two, Miriam, controls the middle part of the book as she hurls invective and threats at Wright, fighting her own volatile, unstable character as well as Frank's preemptive self-indulgence and hardness.
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More than 20 years ago, I read MANY MASKS, a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright by Brendan Gill, who was then a critic with THE NEW YORKER. This biography was an excellent chronological presentation of Wright and his achievements. But it never quite brought Wright to life. In contrast, THE WOMEN, T.C. Boyle's examination of Wright, certainly captures this famous architect as a character, who appears in this novel as charismatic, manipulative, narcissistic, scheming, and oddly susceptible to three strong but spiritual/romantic women, who shared what, in Wright's day, was a scandalous personal life. Once again, Boyle should get his due: He has persuasively brought a historical figure to life, just as he did with Alfred Kinsey, the sex researcher, in THE INNER CIRCLE.

In this case, Boyle finds a unique approach to Wright. In particular, he examines Wright through prisms of female confrontation that existed in three stages of his life. In Boyle's order, these are the confrontations between Miriam, Wright's estranged second wife, and Olga, who would become his third, in the early 1930's; between Miriam and Wright's mother, housekeeper, and Catherine, Wright's first wife, in the 12 years starting roughly with the Great War; and between Catherine and Mamah Cheney, Wright's lover, in the era of Wright's prairie houses.

To tell of these confrontations between the women, Boyle adapts a Harlequin romance tone. Examples include:

Olga in Part I: "Was going off with Frank Wright any different from going off with Gurdjieff--to dance, to serve, to absorb the radiance with her mouth, her fingers, her heart and mind and spirit? Or, was it simply a father she was looking for, a father to replace the one she'd lost?
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Format: Hardcover
"The Women" is less about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work and his life than it is about the three very different women with whom he spent his life after he left his first wife and the mother of his first six children.

Each of them is, in their own way, an exotic of sorts - from the intelligent, liberated Mahma Cheney, to the morphine addicted, sexually charged Miriam Noel (a Sothern Belle) to the mystic-influenced, Montenegrian immigrant, Olgivanna. Each of their lives and their relationship with FLW is brought to life with Professor Boyle's customary cadence and rhythm. The best section (and most difficult to read for those who know the history)is the last one concerning Mahma. Boyle, I think does a very fine job of portraying why she was the true love of FLW's life. As in "Riven Rock", Professor Boyle does a fine job of explaining the trials of being an intelligent, self-directed woman in early 20th Century America - mostly through the recollections of Mahma.

The relationships of the various "Women" to each other other are also nicely handled. You get the sense that FLW - intentionally or not - was a trapeze artist as flew from one Women to the next - from Kitty to Mahma, from the tragic Mahma to Miriam competing with Mahma's memory and from Miriam to Olgivanna.

I would also recommend paying attention to some of the more minor female characters and their relationship with Wright and the "Women" as they also add to the picture - his mother, his various housekeepers (particularly Mrs. Breen) and cooks. It is clear that no matter how much of a mess he made of things in his relationships, FLW could not be without a female companion - some of it was sexual but a lot of it was not.
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