Book Title: 

1. Imagine that you are Olga arriving at Taliesin for the first time, knowing everything you do about its previous two incarnations and the women who inspired them. What would you be feeling?

2. How does Boyle’s choice of narrator affect your reading of the novel?

3. Miriam’s first argument with Wright is over the fancy French meal she serves him. In what ways did his taste in food shape the major events of his life?

4. If Mamah hadn’t been murdered, might she and Wright have stayed happily together? What do you think of Ellen Key’s assertion that women have “the right to love in their own instinctual way”? (p. 385). Does this include adultery and abandoning her children?

5. Just before Miriam marries Wright, she reads her own translation of a Japanese poem: “The memories of long love,/gather like drifting snow . . . poignant as the Mandarin ducks/who float side by side in sleep” (p. 306). Mamah had translated a Goethe poem for Wright: “Call it happiness! . . . Heart! Love! God!/I have no name/For it! Feeling is everything!” (p. 352). What does each quote tell about the woman who chose it?

6. Do you think Wright ever found his soulmate?

7. Consider Wright’s flagrant solicitation of loans he never intended to repay. Does a visionary owe a greater obligation to his art or to the social contract?

8. What do you make of Wright’s demand for exemplary behavior—no drinking, carousing, or romantic entanglements outside marriage—from his apprentices?

9. Have you ever visited a Wright building? If so, describe the experience.

10. Does Boyle’s portrait of Wright accord with your own notions about the architect?

11. Do you read many novels about historical figures? What kind of entrée does fiction provide that mere fact cannot?

Reading Guide Publisher: 
Penguin