At first, I thought this book might relate to the movie The Women, but it turns out it only came out in December 2009. Boyle also wrote The Tortilla Curtain and The Road to Wellville (which I read ages ago), so he obviously enjoys recreating a historical milieu, as he does here, examining the women in the life of Frank Llyod Wright.
This book was timely for me, having seen the Wright retrospective at the Guggenheim recently and gotten educated on the fires at Taliesin, as well as the mistresses / wives. The story itself is compelling, if not terribly unusual – a gifted man and his unconventional relationships – but it was marred for me by Boyle’s choice of a layered narrative. The historical novel has strengths in permitting Boyle to recreate conversations, but his choice to add a Japanese-born narrator, presumably to add an outsider’s view of American society at the time, bogs the story down in sideplots the reader has no reason to care about.
Maybe I’m just crotchety lately, but I’m not interested in some of the formal exercises in narrative structure I’ve been reading lately. The subject of this novel didn’t need the formalities to make it interesting, so they’re just a reminder of how much may not have a basis in the historical record. If I want a display of literary virtuousity, I’ll finally get around to reading the first person plural narrative “And Then We Came to the End” by Josh Ferris (I actually do want to read this, especially because I used to work with Ferris’ wife and my Writer has served his time in a number of ad agencies).
Next up is Cesar Millan’s “Cesar’s Way” . . . Of course, while I’m waiting for it to show up from the library, folks on the subway seem to be on a reading binge of all sorts of great stuff.