The Women, T C Boyle, The Viking Press, 2009, 451 pp
Last year I read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and was captivated by another side of Frank Lloyd Wright, as a lover, husband and father. Seen through the fictional eyes of Mamah, whom I would call the great love of his life, the famous architect's many faults were rather lovingly drawn. The Women explores several other facets of Wright's personality and the architect in him rather ends up being his only redeeming quality.
I can't exactly isolate what I didn't like about The Women, but it was like going to a highly recommended restaurant and being disappointed with my meal. It was a matter of taste with me. I have read two of T C Boyle's early novels, Water Music (1982) and World's End (1987), and was thrilled by both, but in The Women I simply could not discern where Boyle was coming from about Frank Lloyd Wright.
In approximately reverse chronological order, he tells the tales of each one of Wright's wives/lovers and with each woman Frank was a slightly different person, which says to me that when it came to affairs of the heart, it was the woman who defined the man. Each of these women brought out something different though amazingly despite his many glaring deficiencies as a human being, each of these women was completely besotted by him.
As I write this, trying to get at the vague unease I felt all through reading the book, I find myself getting more and more confused. I doubt that was the author's intention, so I can only conclude that whatever his intention was, he did not pull it off.
For someone like myself, who is obsessed with artistic genius, The Women was well worth reading. For a reader looking for a satisfying, moving novel, The Women will not be it. It is OK. T C Boyle is a genius himself and I've lost no respect for him. This book is just not one of his best.