I read between one and three books a week. Sometimes it's genre fiction, fantasy and crime that slips down pleasantly without too much effort. Sometimes it's what I think of a "serious" fiction, the books that I remember and think about long after I've read them. "Serious" fiction are the books I consider buying because I know I'll read them again and again.
This year I read two books that were so intriguing I have been thinking of them on and off for months since I first read them. The first was T. C. Boyle's "The Women".
Set in the early years of the 20th century "The Women" follows the fortune of genius architect Frank Lloyd Wright through the stories of the four seminal women in his life. Wright followed his vision for a new American architecture that worked in sympathy with the environment, was monumental, simple and beautiful, with a passion that bulldozed through all of his human relations. His first wife Mamah was left, with six children and debtors knocking on the door as Wright decamped to Europe with his new mistress, the wife of one of his clients. This disastrous affair is the background to the building of Wright's sylvan masterpiece the, wonderful "ideas factory" Taliesin. Built in his home town of Spring Green, Wisconsin Taliesin provides the spiritual, creative and physical backbone of the novel. Described by the various women in Wright's life as an inspiration, a prison, and a fortress to be breached it is this building more than any other that serves to illuminate the brutal force of a creative vision on the lives of those involved.
"The Women" is a rollicking tale evoking the cult-like atmosphere that Wright encouraged amongst his apprentices and workers. He was always in debt and refusing to pay his workers and suppliers of materials and labor as money was always short in the grand Wright establishment, but never too short to buy original Japanese prints or commission furniture especially for Taliesin. The women in Wright's life had to cope with his long absences, freezing Wisconsin winters in the huge, stone house, and the dislike of the locals to whom Wright owed money. These four women are fascinating characters, all individuals who struggle to maintain their identity and their families in the maelstrom of Wrights creative genius.