Rules of Civility. Finished 8-28-17, rating 4.75/5, fiction, pub. 2011
Unabridged audio read by Rebecca Lowman
On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast–rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.
Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is a ahead of her time,and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets. from Goodreads
I listened to this beauty of a book and loved it. It felt like a classic throwback. The language, the atmosphere, the characters, the story. Perfection. Katey was a wonderful protagonist. Unlike my problems with Mamah in Loving Frank, Katey was smart, independent, driven, and, ultimately, likeable.
This is a perfect New York City story, circa 1938, and I wish I had more to say to recommend it, but I waited too long to write this. I read this for my book group but didn’t end up going to the discussion. Later, one of the ladies mentioned she thought it had a Great Gatsby feel to it and she’s right (although I’m no GG fan I do appreciate it). Read it!
Loving Frank. Finished 8-22-17, rating 4/5, historical fiction, pub. 2007
Unabridged audio read by Joyce Bean. 15 hours.
“I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.”
So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.
In this groundbreaking historical novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Mamah’s profound influence on Wright.
I went in to this one knowing very little about Wright’s personal life and I think that was a good thing. As far as I can tell, very little is known about the real affair between Frank and Mamah so the author had great license to depict the two and their relationship. Neither of them comes off as particularly warm and fuzzy. They are both married with children when they meet and still manage to go off to Europe together leaving them behind. Back in the early 1900’s this was more scandalous than we might find it today and they faced a backlash from the press.
Mamah left her very small children behind. As easy as it might be to understand her attraction to a successful, gifted man, it was less easy to understand her abandonment of her children. So, she had flaws, maybe just as many as Frank Lloyd Wright himself, but the story was compelling. But, the ending, the ending!! Wow. I would recommend this one. As a matter of fact, a friend handed this to me at a party and told me I had to read it. Now I’m telling you.