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So in a book about an architect (or rather around said architect's muses), I spent more time pondering the architure of the book itself than I might typically -- not because of the profession of the man, but because the structure of the book is questionable, and only after completing it did I realized why Boyle made the choices he did.Yet to have a reader wondering midstream why the author is choosing a weird chronology is akin to wondering why an Architect walks you into a bedroom before the kitchen.
2 quick things - I've never been a huge Boyle fan, I think because I've always felt a bit of authorial disdain when it comes to his character treatment, and less focus on characters than on other elements of his novels. In this novel I appreciated Boyle's care of and for all of his subjects, and the depth in which they are rendered is appreciated.
I'm of a generation that knows who Frank Lloyd Wright is, knows his clean/modern lines but little else about his chaotic life. This isn't the book to educate a reader about his work, but it's a book with enough narrative pull that it creates the desire in someone like me to know more about the work that the character in the novel created, which I also think is a huge compliment to the author.
Because I had no knowledge of Wright's personal life, I was not able to guess in advance why Boyle started with the fourth woman, moved to the third, interjected the first occasionally and closed the book with the fourth until the dramatic, murder-capped denouement. Of course Woman #2's Demise was too dramatic to insert into the middle of the book! But the very fact that I wondered, to me indicates Boyle wasn't quite successful in "arting" around the reordering of the women and the life. Valiant effort though- inserting a distinct narrator (Japanese architecture student) for much of the book helped deflect musings about chronology, but not defeat them.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
While I generally enjoy Boyle's writing and Gardner is a very good reader, this book just doesn't work for me, for several reasons. The book is organized in reverse order, so we start with Wright's last (third) wife Olgivanna, then a section on his second wife Miriam and then a third section about his mistress Mamah, while Wright was married to his first wife Kitty. By the time I finished the section on Olgivanna, I knew as much as I wanted to about Miriam and couldn't finish the second section, so I skipped to section 3. What was the rationale for organizing the book this way? I think it detracts, rather than adds, to the story.
I have an issue with the narrator, who is supposedly one of Wright's apprentices. I realize this is a work of fiction, but Wright and Olgivanna were married in 1927 or 1928 and the apprenticeship program did not begin until 1932. Thus there's some contradiction between actual and fictional events, but I can handle that. What's more problematic is that so many events in the book occurred before the narrator arrived on the scene. His "involvement" in the later sections of the book is minimal, as you might expect, which then begs the question: why use this narrator at all?
If you enjoy listening to Boyle, you'll probably like this -- I really enjoyed the first section of the book. Then it got tedious, and overall, just a little too long for me (even skipping most of section 2).
7 of 7 people found this review helpful