Book Review: “The Women” by T.C. Boyle

December 30, 2009

I have a bit of a star-struck love for TC Boyle, but this novel made my head buzz with the pestering question: ‘Why?’

Frank Lloyd Wright is entirely hate-able and without merit. That doesn’t by any means immediately discount the story, but there isn’t anything to balance his objectionable personality. The women in his life–from whose perspective, via an interstitial Japanese apprentice intern narrator, this novel is built–are little better. Miriam, FLW’s second wife, is repellent enough to be laughably unrealistic.

The tale, told in reverse-chronological order, unwinds the dramatic coil of Wright’s libido, which apparently ran rampant and unchecked through the first half of the 20th century. His ego borders on the ludicrous and incredible, making the motives of his fawning paramours hard to reconcile. There are pockets of sensitivity and good historical insight, but the majority of the book involves jilted lovers and wives stomping around and dropping ultimatums and hiring lawyers.

Boyle does have a good ability to jibe smartly at the pseudo-ennobling movements of the early 20th century–those apotheosized under the banner of artistic license and the elevation of romantic love, but as shallow and baseless as the institutions they seek to shatter. Wright’s use of free love tenets coming back to bite him are priceless.

But mostly this novel creates a gnawing, loveless null.

2.5 stars
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