Behind every great man is a woman, the saying goes. But it hardly does justice to Frank Lloyd Wright. In T C Boyle’s fictionalised biography, The Women, a distaff regiment follows in the wake of America’s favourite architect: wives, mistresses, housekeepers, cooks, clients. Some are monstrous. Others are treated monstrously. Given the energy he was required to devote to his personal life, it seems a wonder that Wright had the time to build anything. What he achieved seems all the more remarkable given the violent personal tragedy that threatened to overwhelm him in the autumn of 1914.
For that, though, the reader must wait 450 pages. With the occasional exception, The Women is a love life told backwards, its narrator one of the master’s Japanese apprentices, Tadashi Sato. At the point his biographer launches into his tale, Wright has already dispensed with wife number one,