Many creative geniuses have a torrid past with the women that loved them. Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock are just two examples. However, in T.C. Boyle’s The Women, he focuses on the madness and the passion that engulfed much of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s life.
The Four Women
T.C. Boyle brings to life Frank Lloyd Wright’s life by telling it through the four women who loved him in life. He begins with the failure of Wright’s marriage to his wife, Miriam, an older, passionate southern woman who had a heavily hidden addiction to morphine.
Boyle goes on to infuse the the novel with heat and passion when Wright meets the woman that would take him away from his wife. Exotic and fiery, Olgivanna Milanoff became dubbed the “Dragon Lady” by Lloyd’s apprentices. She lived with him at his famed estate, Taliesan first under the lie that she was his maid, but her pregnancy quickly gave away their affair.
More sweetly, Boyle also recounts Wright’s relationship with his first wife, Kitty Tobin with whom he had had six children with. More idealized and poignant, the passages on this relationship humanize Wright while the other women seem to make him more tortured and lost.
What is most tragic about the novel is the inclusion of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, Wright’s mistress who was tragically murdered at the Taliesan estate in 1914 along with her two children.
Downfall of The Women
As scandalous and impetuous much of the historical basis for the novel is, what is the downfall of Boyle’s novel is the narrator. The story is told from the viewpoint of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Japanese apprentice which just does not fit the novel. Moreover, the over-usage of footnotes to ensure that all information even parts that do not seem to matter take the reader away from the meat of the story. They often are confusing and stuck in places that would be better suited without them. It becomes rather difficult to get through the story in some parts.
All in all, T.C. Boyle does a great job of making The Women seem more of an actual biography than a historical fiction novel. It would have been better served if Boyle had reserved himself with regards to the amount of information he felt necessary to include with the text and with the foot notes.
The Women by T.C. Boyle was first published in 2009 by Viking Publishing with ISBN 978-0-670-02041-6.