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The Women

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Welcome to the troubled, tempestuous world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scandalous affairs rage behind closed doors, broken hearts are tossed aside, fires rip through the wings of the house and paparazzi lie in wait outside the front door for the latest tragedy in this never-ending saga. This is the home of the great architect of the twentieth century, a man of extremes in both Welcome to the troubled, tempestuous world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scandalous affairs rage behind closed doors, broken hearts are tossed aside, fires rip through the wings of the house and paparazzi lie in wait outside the front door for the latest tragedy in this never-ending saga. This is the home of the great architect of the twentieth century, a man of extremes in both his work and his private life: at once a force of nature and an avalanche of need and emotion that sweeps aside everything in its path. Sharp, savage and subtle in equal measure, "The Women" plumbs the chaos, horrors and uncontainable passions of a formidable American icon.


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Welcome to the troubled, tempestuous world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scandalous affairs rage behind closed doors, broken hearts are tossed aside, fires rip through the wings of the house and paparazzi lie in wait outside the front door for the latest tragedy in this never-ending saga. This is the home of the great architect of the twentieth century, a man of extremes in both Welcome to the troubled, tempestuous world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Scandalous affairs rage behind closed doors, broken hearts are tossed aside, fires rip through the wings of the house and paparazzi lie in wait outside the front door for the latest tragedy in this never-ending saga. This is the home of the great architect of the twentieth century, a man of extremes in both his work and his private life: at once a force of nature and an avalanche of need and emotion that sweeps aside everything in its path. Sharp, savage and subtle in equal measure, "The Women" plumbs the chaos, horrors and uncontainable passions of a formidable American icon.

30 review for The Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Here was guilt. Here was the shit of the world coming home to roost right here in the redwoods. A part of the American mind has been off its meds for a very long time. There are some fine specimens of the syndrome tramping through the landscape in TC Boyle’s latest novel, The Harder They Come. Sara Hovart Jennings, 40, divorced, lives with her dog and her paranoia. Was she wearing her seatbelt? No, she wasn’t, and she was never going to wear it either. Seatbelt laws were just another contrivan Here was guilt. Here was the shit of the world coming home to roost right here in the redwoods. A part of the American mind has been off its meds for a very long time. There are some fine specimens of the syndrome tramping through the landscape in TC Boyle’s latest novel, The Harder They Come. Sara Hovart Jennings, 40, divorced, lives with her dog and her paranoia. Was she wearing her seatbelt? No, she wasn’t, and she was never going to wear it either. Seatbelt laws were just another contrivance of the U.S. Illegitimate Government of America the corporate that had given up the gold standard back in 1933 and pledged its citizens as collateral so it could borrow and keep on borrowing. But she wasn’t a citizen of the U.S.I.G.A, she was a sovereign citizen, a U.S. national, born and raised, and she didn’t now and never would again acknowledge anybody’s illegitimate authority over her. She makes a living helping take care of horses and other animals on the northern California coast. Sara is more a garden-variety crank than a certifiable one. There was talk on the radio, but it was mainly left-wing Communist crap-NPR, and how was it their signal was stronger than anybody else’s? Adam Stensen is more the latter sort, mid 20s, hitchhiking, late of a local institution for the very nervous. Sara picks him up. Adam has issues. His grasp on reality is less than firm. He calls himself Colter, for John Colter, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, considered by many the first mountain man. The border between Adam’s reality as Adam and his reality as Colter is way too permeable. TC Boyle - from his site Sten Stensen, 70, a Viet Nam veteran and retired school principal offers an example of the traditional Protestant work ethic. He’d been up early all his life and though everybody said the best thing about retirement was sleeping in, he just couldn’t feature it. If he found himself in bed later than six, he felt like a degenerate, and he supposed he could thank his mother for that. And his father. The work ethic—once you had it, once it had been implanted in you, how could you shake it? Why would you want to? He and his wife, Carolee, were on a group tour in Costa Rica. The bus driver who drove them to a remote location may or may not have been in on it, but after getting off the bus the group is accosted by several armed men and robbed of their possessions. At least that was the plan. Sten, away from the group when the action begins, gets the drop on a gun-toting bandit and kills him. The other robbers flee. Sten returns home a hero. Boyle’s northern California is a place living in fear, of BIG government, of Mexican drug runners and drug growers, of foreigners. That fear plays a big part in the story of Adam’s surrender to madness. Violence plays a huge role as well. The story of Adam/Colter’s descent is a gripping, moving, and frightening one. But, as in most good stories, there is another layer. Boyle opens the book with a quote from D.H. Lawrence The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. Boyle has been looking at that soul for a while. His vision of it remains interesting. It is not a pretty sight. In straight narrative sections he gives us an up close and personal look at the historical Colter contending with existential 19th century threats. America was a challenging environment, whether for its early residents enduring a European invasion or for explorers taking on the risk of encountering actual hostiles in parts of the continent that were not under European/American rule. Of course, like so much of history, American and other, the details can be lost over time while the idealized image remains. See, for example, Supreme Court justices basing decisions on mythical, lumped-together, founders, while the fact is that those founders were a contentious lot who disagreed about most things. History as fantasy is as rich a seam in the American lode as is violence. Adam has fixated on one such fantasy, glorifying hardship. As a result he cannot reconcile his image of the archetypal independent mountain man with the fact that Colter actually returned to civilization after six years away and settled down. Adam, like much of America, has failed to learn from the lessons of the past. Sten’s actions in Costa Rica, justified or not, echo his, and his country’s, army experience in Viet Nam, Americans in the jungle, killing natives. Boyle is known for his satire and Sara is nothing if not an exaggeration (hopefully) of an extreme segment of the national psychosis. At least she is not out shooting people. Adam, before diving even farther off the deep end, built a wall around the place where he was living, his grandmother’s home. He does not even build a door to allow entry and exit. (Maybe he had some help from The Donald?) It is hard not to smile at this concrete manifestation of isolationism. He sees hostiles everywhere, which is merely aberrant when he is going about his business, but manifestly dangerous when his paranoia combines with automatic weapons. (Think Ditto-heads with Glocks, or stand-your-ground vigilantes in Florida) The notion of invasion is considered. The original Colter was nothing if not an invader of Native American land. The US invaded Viet Nam, and most Meso-American countries, among other places. The American tourists in Costa Rica might be considered invaders of a sort. But the tables are turned as Mexicans are seen as invaders of American territory. A local couple run a reserve for non-native endangered species, another sort of invasion, perhaps. The general terrain is one Boyle knows, a not-long drive from his residence in Santa Barbara. There’s plenty of crazy up in them thar hills. One of the things that dogs Boyle’s writing it that it is tough to relate to many of his characters. The same applies here. If you are hard-core, biochemically delusional you may relate to Adam. The rest of us are mostly limited to observing him. Despite her quirks, Sara is actually an appealing character and we don’t want to see her come to harm. She is more crazy-aunt nuts than Adam’s more virulent form. She seems to have a good heart. The satire and attempt to understand the American psyche may be major elements in Boyle’s oeuvre, and they are present here in abundance, but if the story is not engaging, it all goes for naught. Happily, Boyle does know how to engage readers and keep his story rumbling through. There is certainly some fun in the satirical elements but there is also considerable action throughout. The tale moves quickly. You will definitely not be bored. I have no idea of the title of the book was meant to reference Jimmy Cliff beyond a bit of weed in common. I have read only a small sample of Boyle’s body of work. Budding Prospects, When the Killing's Done, probably a short story collection, so I cannot really place this among his works for a compare and contrast. I do believe it is a better book than WTKD. I was reminded of a 2014 book that also looked at an extreme national element, Fourth of July Creek, but while their subject matter intersects, they are very different stories. So, bottom line, an interesting tale, well told and with some perspective on larger issues. What’s not to like? Trade Paperback released March 1, 2016 =============================EXTRA STUFF September 21, 2015 - The Harder They Come is named to the Carnegie Awards Longlist In a piece on Boyle in The Guardian the author talks about his relationship with the digital world. I'm not on Twitter or Facebook. My website contains my blog going back 13 years. It requires a good deal of my attention and serves the purpose of Twitter and Facebook for me as far as connecting with and providing information to the public. I like to disconnect and experience life outside the electronic media and other machines that control and limit our lives. I like to go out into nature, whether here at home where I am a short walk from the beach and a longer one to the mountains that frame Santa Barbara, or up in the Sequoia National Forest, where I spend several months a year, beyond the reach of cable, email and the internet. What I'm talking about is unplugging and enjoying some contemplative time, sitting by a waterfall deep in the woods with a book and the sights and scents of nature. I think people are "deep reading" less these days and it concerns me. We are so distracted that we've lost the habit of being idle. How can you engage with a novel if you're plugged in constantly?Thomas John Boyle changed his middle name to “Coraghessan” when he was 17, a nod to his Irish heritage and away from the less interesting middle name he had been given at birth. He stopped using it years ago and is now TC on his books, and Tom to friends. Here is a nice piece on Boyle from the Encyclopedia of World Biography An interview in the Paris Review A wiki on the Redemption Theory that Sara is so taken with A lovely review from Michiko Kakutani of the NY Times

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance.” --Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright Tadashi Sato abandoned his studies and his life in Japan to come to America, more specifically Wisconsin, to study with his hero Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright had a fascination with Eastern culture, in particular their paintings, so it wasn’t hard for Tadashi to get one of the coveted apprenticeships. As I read this book I thought it was truly remarkable that ”Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance.” --Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright Tadashi Sato abandoned his studies and his life in Japan to come to America, more specifically Wisconsin, to study with his hero Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright had a fascination with Eastern culture, in particular their paintings, so it wasn’t hard for Tadashi to get one of the coveted apprenticeships. As I read this book I thought it was truly remarkable that anyone would take an apprenticeship with Wright. He was on the verge of bankruptcy most of the time. His personal life was one controversy after another which usually contributed to his insolvency. An apprentice might spend as much time peeling potatoes, hoeing in the garden, building rock walls or running an errand than they will working at the drafting tables. There was no pay, but generally they were housed and fed. All of this wouldn’t make any sense except that they were allowed to work with a man that is considered the most revered architect of his time. Fortunately for Wright he was not the only one that thought he was a genius. ”Was he the wounded genius or the philanderer and sociopath who abused the trust of practically everyone he knew, especially the women, especially them?” T. C. Boyle uses Tadashi as the narrator of this book. He tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright through his relationships with the women in his life. There were three wives, often overlapping each other, and there was one lover/soulmate who was tragically murdered. His 5’8” tall mother, two inches taller than him, always seems available to fill in the gaps when he is between women. He doesn’t do well on his own. ”The dishes were a nuisance, piled up around the house with unrecognizable crusts of food fused to their surfaces, the rugs were filthy, the linens needed changing, he was running short of shirts and underwear--socks--and he was tired of having to send someone out to the laundry every other day. The smallest thing. That was all he needed. Someone to look after him.” It must have been quite the shock for the women in his life to transition from this passionate love affair into the drudgery of keeping up with Frank’s extended household. It must have been difficult to watch FLW flitter about the country chasing down commissions and being left behind to “manage his affairs”. He was amazing and he was an ass. He was always dancing on the head of a needle not only in regards to his women, but also with his career. It takes superb balance to stay on that needle. The Edwin H. Cheney house that turned out to be so tragically costly. In 1903 FLW designed a house for Edwin Cheney, a neighbor in Oak Park, Illinois. Little did Cheney know that part of the cost of the commission was also his wife...Mamah. I’m sure it did not come up in the negotiations. She was a follower of the writer Ellen Key who advocated independence for women even to the point of saying that the bonds of marriage should not be a bond at all. Controversial stuff in 1903. FLW had been married to Catherine “Kitty” for twenty years and had four children with her. When he threw Kitty over and ran away with Mamah his career was quickly in shambles. Headlines blared his infidelity. He was hounded to the point that he finally called a disastrous press conference. He was big on those. ”One wonders when they were first conceived of--and wonders to at Wrieto-San’s curious propensity to inflict them carelessly on the women he professed to love.” Kitty continued to stand by him telling the press it was all just a misunderstanding. She was the dutiful wife until the end even long after they were divorced. Mamah Cheney, her bid for freedom ended disastrously. To escape the press FLW and Mamah flee to Europe. Even those that wanted to give him commissions could not. He was the hot potato; and few, even his best friends didn’t have the calluses to offer him help. One of the many times in his life when he had to sell his personal collections of paintings and vases to keep the wolves at bay. (Wolves is really not the proper term as most of the people he owed money to were ordinary people like the grocer he owed $900 to. The equivalent of $6,500 in today’s money.) One thing Wright could always count on was his own celebrated genius. He was a great self-promoter and even with this controversy eventually things die down enough for him to quietly begin building again. This was also the birth of Taliesin. He convinced his mother to buy land in Wisconsin where he could build his dream house and be away from the prying eyes of the press. Taliesin The next woman to enter his life pursued him with a barrage of sympathetic letters. Miriam Noel was an artist and hooked on morphine. She was cultured and elegant to the point that she was beyond being just an American, but really more a citizen of the world. FLW was experiencing a gap after the tragic death of Mamah at the hands of a servant from Barbados who went temporarily insane killing seven people at Taliesin. Two of the victims were also Edwin and Mamah’s children. The cost of building that house just keeps adding up for Edwin. Miriam Noel Wright. She was 45 when she met FLW, but looked 35. She was in the bloom of morphine youthfulness. Miriam was passionate and easily slighted and the rows these two proud people had were legendary. One thing that Miriam always chafed under was the spectre of Mamah. ”’Cold meat, Frank. But I’m alive, a real live flesh-and-blood woman!’ Both her hands were at her collar now and in a single savage jerk she tore the dress to her waist, her breasts falling free even as the cold air of the room assaulted her. ‘Look at me. Look at my breasts. You’ve fondled them enough. Suckled them like an infant. They were good enough for you then. And now you prefer a corpse, a corpse over me?’” She was also rather destructive. ”She picked up the table first--an end table of rosewood, intricately carved--and the sound it made when it tore the screen from the wall was like the overture to a symphony. Cloth gave. Wood. Plaster. Glass rang and chimed and hit all the high notes ascending the scale. She found an axe propped up against the fireplace and brought it down on the dining room table, the bookshelf, the chairs, the divans, the desk, Frank’s desk. There was the whoosh of a ceramic vase grasping at the air, the shriek of splintering wood, the basso profundo of the andirons slamming to the floor.” But the sex...well it was exceptional. Miriam was the most independent of his women. She left him several times. Each time waiting patiently for him to miss her enough to beseech her to return. She overplayed her hand in the end because he met Olgivanna. Passion and lust, not unusual for Frank, overrode all other considerations. He had trouble getting divorced from his wives. Kitty didn’t allow a divorce until 1922 and Miriam held out for as long as she could until finally letting him go for good in 1927. So while married he installed Olgivanna in his household as a “housekeeper”. Of course he promptly impregnated the “housekeeper” which effectively destroyed the fiction of that arrangement. Olgivanna Miriam was certainly a tigress. She hired a private investigator to follow her husband around and a couple of times she broke into the places they were staying and destroyed their possessions. Restraining orders? Who cares about no stinkin’ restraining orders. She did manage to get him arrested on violations of the Mann Act in Minnesota. She was magnificently vindictive. ”It is named after Congressman James Robert Mann, and in its original form prohibited white slavery and the interstate transport of females for "immoral purposes". Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution, "immorality", and human trafficking; however, its ambiguous language of "immorality" allowed selective prosecutions for many years, and was used to criminalize forms of consensual sexual behavior”. Wikipedia More press and more embarrassment, but I can’t help thinking that FLW despite the controversy and the temporary losses of commissions believed in the old adage “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Genius has a way of being forgiven. Notoriety is just part of the myth. In the end what people remember about Frank Lloyd Wright is his buildings not his scandals or his defaults or for that matter his faults. When the man is gone his genius survives. Fallingwater, considered one of his masterpieces. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  3. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    I really wanted to like this book because I like the subject matter of Frank Lloyd Wright. However, it seems like TC Boyle merely read several biographies of Wright and then compressed them into loosely fictionalized vignettes in this novel. The narrator's voice is probably the most confusing and least attractive aspect. The narrator's voice is presumably that of a Japanese foreign exchange student who works as an apprentice at Frank Lloyd's Wright's Midwestern Taliesin -- this is revealed in th I really wanted to like this book because I like the subject matter of Frank Lloyd Wright. However, it seems like TC Boyle merely read several biographies of Wright and then compressed them into loosely fictionalized vignettes in this novel. The narrator's voice is probably the most confusing and least attractive aspect. The narrator's voice is presumably that of a Japanese foreign exchange student who works as an apprentice at Frank Lloyd's Wright's Midwestern Taliesin -- this is revealed in the "foreword" of the novel. The reader will wonder why this gimmicky device was employed. Although Wright did work in Japan for certain periods of time, what insight or unique perspective is gained by having a foreign exchange student comment on the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright? In addition, this narrator's speech is peppered with altogether too many Midwestern colloquialisms for it to ring true. Worse, the narrative perspective constantly shifts from the voice of this young, hapless narrator, to various lovelorn females who think that Wright has done them wrong. The chronological order of the novel (presumably in reverse chronological order), and covering the periods when he loved and left his first mistress until his third wife, is confusing and digressive. For Wright aficionados, there is no new insight to be gleaned from this novel, no rich characterizations to contextualize our understanding, and no imagined flights of fancy about this fantastic dreamer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    What do you do when your delusional twenty-five-year-old son - who's paranoid about 'hostiles' (Mexicans, other foreigners, and especially 'the Chinese') - becomes destructive and violent? That's the problem faced by Sten Stensen, a retired high school principal and Vietnam vet, and Sten's wife Carolee. Sten, a 70-year-old former Marine, is no shrinking violet himself. As the book opens, Sten, Carolee, and a group of golden age vacationers are about to embark on a nature hike in Costa Rica - an What do you do when your delusional twenty-five-year-old son - who's paranoid about 'hostiles' (Mexicans, other foreigners, and especially 'the Chinese') - becomes destructive and violent? That's the problem faced by Sten Stensen, a retired high school principal and Vietnam vet, and Sten's wife Carolee. Sten, a 70-year-old former Marine, is no shrinking violet himself. As the book opens, Sten, Carolee, and a group of golden age vacationers are about to embark on a nature hike in Costa Rica - an activity organized by their luxury cruise ship. The tourists are mugged by three young thugs, armed with a gun and knives, who demand their valuables. Sten gets the jump on one of miscreants, puts him in a choke hold, and kills him.....while the other two punks flee. Sten fears repercussions from the Costa Rican authorities, but instead is praised for dispensing with a trouble-maker. Moreover, when Sten gets home to Mendocino, California, he's hailed as a hero, and pursued by print journalists and television talk show hosts. All this hoopla irks the Stensen's son Adam - a seriously troubled, mentally ill young man. Adam reveres John Colter, the historical 'mountain man' from the Lewis and Clark expedition who - legend has it - ran hundreds of miles, naked, to escape from the Blackfoot Indians. In fact Adam has renamed himself 'Colter' and tries to emulate his hero, who lived off the land and battled hostiles (Indians in Colter's case). Adam resides in his deceased grandmother's isolated house in a woodsy area of northern California, around which he's built a wall with no opening. Adam scales the wall, parkour-fashion, to get in and out. He also has a concealed hideout nearby, and a field where he grows poppies for opium.....his main source of income. Adam shaves his head, dresses in camouflage clothing, wears a backpack containing survival gear, and carries a rifle wherever he goes. Adam doesn't get along with his parents, who've repeatedly tried to get the disturbed youth help over the years. The young man especially resents his father, who shows up one day to knock an opening into Adam's wall, in preparation for selling the house. A few days after the wall incident, while thumbing a ride, Adam meets Sara Jennings, a forty-year-old divorcée with troubles of her own. Sara, who works as a farrier, doesn't acknowledge the authority of the government, which she calls the "U.S. Illegitimate Government of America." To show her independence, in accordance with the 14th amendment (as she interprets it), Sara refuses to wear a seat belt, and - when she's pulled over by a police officer - won't present her licence, registration, and insurance.....as required by California law. As a result, Sara is arrested, her car is impounded, and her beloved dog - who nipped the cop - is quarantined.....since (of course) the canine had no rabies shot. By the time Sara retrieves her vehicle and picks up a hitchhiking Adam, she's desperate to get her dog back.....and the two stage a rescue (illegal dognapping). Afterwards, hiding from the police with her pooch, Sara temporarily moves in with Adam. The farrier becomes a mother figure/lover to the young man, who she finds irresistibly sexy. Adam is peculiar from the get-go, disappearing from morning til evening, then coming home for beer, food and sex. Later, when Sara invites her best friend for dinner, Adam sits at the table naked. Eventually, Adam's behavior becomes completely unhinged, he commits serious crimes, and goes on the run. Adam and Sara are a complementary pair in their disdain for authority. Nonetheless, Sara is sane, and - despite believing she can flout the law - fears the consequences of abetting a wanted felon. Adam's parents are very concerned about their son's downward spiral, and Sten quietly considers cutting his son loose, since Adam won't cooperate with any form of treatment. When the police ask Sten to help capture the boy, though, he's torn. To round out the action, Mexican gangbangers are using the Mendocino National Forest for a marijuana growing operation, and they're cutting down trees and poisoning wildlife to accomodate their needs. Local citizens are furious, and Sten gets pulled into a vigilante scheme to stop the lowlifes, which adds danger and excitement to the novel. The book is essentially a character study of Sten, Adam, and Sara, with Carolee in a supporting role. The writing is excellent, the landscape and environment are vivdly brought to life, and the characters are interesting and three-dimensional. Sara is an especially intriguing character. Though the farrier's extreme 'libertarian' views are self-defeating - since there's red tape and a hefty fee to get her car out of impound, and the dog being 'in prison' leaves her overwhelmingly anxious - Sara sticks to her guns. You gotta admire that! And Sara's weird opinions are interesting and a bit funny. I wonder if REAL peoople who reject taxes, government, vaccinations, and so on realize they would have no infrastructure, no roads, no emergency services, rampant disease, and so on. In short, chaos! Carolee is also an amusing character (at times), as she mini-stalks Adam in an effort to find out what's going on with her son and Sara....the nefarious 'older woman.' Though the book addresses serious subjects - dysfunctional individuals, drugs, violence, etc. - the story is lightened by a thread of humor that runs through the narrative. This is a good book that sheds light on important issues. I highly recommend it to fans of literary novels. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Every punch and thrust and gasp in the opening of T.C. Boyle’s new novel demonstrates why he’s one of the greatest storytellers in the country. Despite his prestigious awards and his university job, he still writes like a man with no presumptions on our attention. He fights for it. “The Harder They Come” begins with a tourist bus slamming through the Costa Rican jungle. The heat, the rising irritation, the scent of danger — everything signals we’re in Boyle country. Seventy-year-old Sten Stensen Every punch and thrust and gasp in the opening of T.C. Boyle’s new novel demonstrates why he’s one of the greatest storytellers in the country. Despite his prestigious awards and his university job, he still writes like a man with no presumptions on our attention. He fights for it. “The Harder They Come” begins with a tourist bus slamming through the Costa Rican jungle. The heat, the rising irritation, the scent of danger — everything signals we’re in Boyle country. Seventy-year-old Sten Stensen is on vacation with his wife. He’s an ex-Marine, a former high school principal, one of those hard, active men who submit to retirement like a muzzled pit bull. Just as he and the other tourists limp out of the bus to start a nature walk, three men jump at them holding knives and a gun. Suddenly, Sten’s age doesn’t matter; his headache evaporates. “What he’d learned as a nineteen-year-old himself, a recruit, green as an apple, wasn’t about self-defense, it was about killing,” Boyle writes in a voice spiked with Sten’s adrenaline. “That was what he’d been trained to do and he had no choice in the matter. It was beyond reason now, autonomous, dial it up, semper fi.” This explosive opening burns for almost 60 pages as Sten gets caught in the conflicting currents of local politics and hometown fame. His actions in the jungle are clearly in justified self-defense, but did he go too far? Does he allow himself to be used by a corrupt police force? Those deadly questions are written in blood — and then, it seems, abandoned. This first section is merely prologue for a different story. The novel proper takes us back to California and introduces us to Sten’s son, Adam. After a stormy, narcotic adolescence, in and out of trouble and therapy, Adam now lives in the woods, marginally in control of his delusional paranoia. A violent racist, convinced that aliens are taking over the United States, he grows poppies (not for their lovely flowers) and trains to defend himself against hostiles. “They’re everywhere,” he knows. His one abiding interest is the real-life mountain man John Colter, who worked for Lewis and Clark. Although eclipsed by the discoveries of those more famous explorers, Colter’s adventures in the early 19th century sound like a cross between those of Paul Bunyan and Indiana Jones. In fact, some of this novel’s most wonderfully outlandish episodes are the tales boiling in Adam’s brain about Colter defending himself from Indian assault. Boyle clearly likes to write about Adam, camped out on the wacky right edge of the nation’s political spectrum. We spend a lot of time in his febrile mind, frantically rehearsing for attack, cataloguing his simple insights, rubbing old slights and offenses together for heat. Sten regards Adam with bitter disappointment, but the son is clearly a fractured version of his heroic father. Both men are fueled by rage; Sten just managed to channel that energy toward forms of killing that society celebrates, while Adam spins out of control like a bent lawn-mower blade. Between these two alienated men, Boyle places a woman named Sara, who makes a living shoeing hoofed farm animals, some of which may be more sophisticated than she is. As an amateur anarchist, she rejects the U.S. Illegitimate Government of America the Corporate and regards herself as “a sovereign citizen” who refuses to “acknowledge anybody’s illegitimate authority over her.” She is, in some ways, a stock Boyle character: the strident woman inflamed with ideology. Stopped by a police officer for not wearing a seat belt, she attempts to bore him to death by chanting, “I have no contract with you.” To her apparent surprise, this is not an effective defense, which initiates a cascade of legal complications. How simple Sara managed to reach the age of 40 with so little common sense is one of several mysteries that Boyle leaves unexplored. What matters in these pages is that she’s the perfect lover/mother for Adam, the cast-iron mountain man whose rejection of modern life is even more radical than her own. Does it trouble her that Adam wants her to call him Colter? That he lives in a woodland house completely surrounded by a high, solid wall? Alas, the sight of him with his shirt off renders those concerns irrelevant. Divorced and horny, she pretends — for far too long — that this anti-government fanatic has relationship potential, and they carry on like actors in a tea party porno. “The Harder They Come” is never dull, but the body of the novel never reaches the peak of its prologue and feels somehow depth-resistant, which is an odd failing given its potential. Although the influx of Mexicans raises tensions in Sten’s white town, that theme — so effectively dramatized in Boyle’s classic “The Tortilla Curtain” — remains stunted in this story. And for the first time, Boyle’s dialogue — usually inflected with the timbre of real anger — sounds TV-corny. One police officer questioning Sara actually says, “You getting smart with me? Because if you want to get smart, we can continue this down at the station.” That’s fine if he’s about to rip off his uniform at a bachelorette party, but in the midst of a statewide manhunt, clichés like that are a mood killer. What’s more troubling, the novel’s political fiber feels thin. Sara’s slogans sound merely silly, like a high-school affectation instead of the watered-down liquor of real anarchism. Adam’s paranoia, meanwhile, is the product of mental illness, the roots of which remain obscure, despite how many chapters we spend rattling around in his potted brain. The radiation of anti-government sentiments in American culture was portrayed more effectively and far more movingly last year in Smith Henderson’s “Fourth of July Creek.” Boyle knows exactly how to tell an exciting story. But he usually knows how to do more than that, too. This review first appeared in The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/enterta...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Snotchocheez

    2.5 stars Well, this could should have been a tour de force for TC Boyle. Most of his books (excluding his terrific short story collections) seem to be either slightly off-kilter historical fictions, or contemporary stories used by Boyle as an avenue to expand upon a hot-button sociopolitcal theme. None potentially hotter than The Harder They Come, in which Boyle endeavors to tackle the subjects of crime and violence (or Americans' perceived threat of same), only to have his message drowned in a 2.5 stars Well, this could should have been a tour de force for TC Boyle. Most of his books (excluding his terrific short story collections) seem to be either slightly off-kilter historical fictions, or contemporary stories used by Boyle as an avenue to expand upon a hot-button sociopolitcal theme. None potentially hotter than The Harder They Come, in which Boyle endeavors to tackle the subjects of crime and violence (or Americans' perceived threat of same), only to have his message drowned in a sea of inanity. The first few chapters were pretty great, and really set up the potential angst to follow. Protag Sten Stenman, a 70 year-old retired high school principal and Vietnam Vet, is on a pleasure cruise with his wife. Some of the passengers disembark in Costa Rica for a rain forest excursion, and are accosted by three bandits, summarily dispatched by the old man who kills one them with his bare hands. Fast forward a bit after the cruise, the Stenmans back at home in the heart of the redwood forests of Northern California, where (reminiscent of the xenophobia tackled in Boyle's two-decade prior The Tortilla Curtain) a fomenting foofaraw is boiling over, with a contingent of citizens upset that bands of Mexicans are overrunning their paradise in the redwoods, bringing their drug trade north of the border. At the same time, the Stenmans' 25 year-old son, Adam, is showing signs of losing his marbles, increasingly becoming antisocial and defiant, and hanging with a Tea Party-ish anti-Government woman named Sara who has some serious issues of her own. You can probably intuit where the story's going from there, and that's where much of the problem lies. Boyle (who wrote this, I'm guessing, months before Donald "Let's Seal the Borders!" Trump declared his presidential candidacy) had a golden opportunity to eviscerate the backward right. He does, sorta, but doesn't go far enough. Instead, he focuses on his characters, which are (as is typical for Boyle) cartoon buffoons (particularly Stenman's son and his girfriend.) Going into any more detail will spoil things, but these characters (most all of them, really) don't really act like real human beings. They are amalgams of Boyle's design to move the story along, but their not-in-this-world-hell-no qualities serve to ultimately implode any meaningful message Boyle had to impart. With each passing page, this novel morphed from TC Boyle's most promising output to his most ridiculous.

  7. 4 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    Not a review, merely some late comments.... After a a week's break in reading, I'm up to the final part of The Women by T.C. Boyle. The day Mamah Borthwick meets their new butler Julian Carleton filled me with unease. My reading paced slowed as I approached that fateful day at Taliesin when Julian's rage at his wife, his situation, his life explodes. All too soon, I'm done; I sit on the sofa with tears in my eyes for the events which have unfurled; tears not for FLW's loss but for Mamah and her c Not a review, merely some late comments.... After a a week's break in reading, I'm up to the final part of The Women by T.C. Boyle. The day Mamah Borthwick meets their new butler Julian Carleton filled me with unease. My reading paced slowed as I approached that fateful day at Taliesin when Julian's rage at his wife, his situation, his life explodes. All too soon, I'm done; I sit on the sofa with tears in my eyes for the events which have unfurled; tears not for FLW's loss but for Mamah and her children. Mr T.C. Boyle has excelled himself with this portrayal of the talented Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen Michele

    I had the opportunity to hear T. C. Boyle read and speak about this new novel in Seattle last week. I love to go to these events and then read the book immediately with the author's insight to his writing and his way of reading the characters' voices fresh in my mind. I have long been a fan of Boyle's work and this one is among the best. His writing is always good. It is clear and easy to follow, but sophisticated storytelling that goes to the depth of the issues, characters and themes. Boyle to I had the opportunity to hear T. C. Boyle read and speak about this new novel in Seattle last week. I love to go to these events and then read the book immediately with the author's insight to his writing and his way of reading the characters' voices fresh in my mind. I have long been a fan of Boyle's work and this one is among the best. His writing is always good. It is clear and easy to follow, but sophisticated storytelling that goes to the depth of the issues, characters and themes. Boyle told us that he explores the line between freedom and anarchy inspired by a true story of a schizophrenic young man in California in this book. He writes about things that catch his interest and attention, and in this case, his interest was the solo shooter and what leads a person to that act of violence. I found it to be a novel with insight leaving the readers free to determine their own opinions about how we might address the issues of mental illness and the politics behind anarchist beliefs as a society. Great writing and an intriguing plot equals five stars for me!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This book covers the relationships between Frank Lloyd Wright and four very important women in his life. Three were married to him and the fourth died before they could become husband and wife. The book is about conjugal relationships, about one man but four very different women. Three of the four relationships are thoroughly covered, but his first wife with whom he had six children, less so. After reading this book you also understand the architect too. I rank him as a great artist but at the s This book covers the relationships between Frank Lloyd Wright and four very important women in his life. Three were married to him and the fourth died before they could become husband and wife. The book is about conjugal relationships, about one man but four very different women. Three of the four relationships are thoroughly covered, but his first wife with whom he had six children, less so. After reading this book you also understand the architect too. I rank him as a great artist but at the same time would absolutely NEVER want to be married to him. You can love what a person creates but not the person himself. You can love some characteristics and hate others. Frank Lloyd Wright is a complicated figure. This book covers a huge quantity of facts, the details of his life, and weaves them into a story that depicts how the women in his life reasoned and felt. It is this that constitutes the fictional element of the book. Dialogs and emotions can for the most part only be guessed at.....but they correspond well to the known facts. This kind of fiction makes dry biographical events into a moving, emotional story. Each relationship feels strong and real and all-engulfing. And at points horrifyingly gripping. I assume you know of the murders. I wish the book hadn't jumped around between different time periods. To say that it starts at the end and goes backwards in time is wrong too. It flips back and forth, and I cannot for the life of me see any advantage in doing this. Most people who want to read this book do want to complete it with a clear understanding of Wright’s life. I have read other books so I didn't tackle the subject from scratch, but still I went and read Wiki too. There are many different families that get disrupted by one man's love affairs. Many children and discarded wives and husbands. To keep all the names straight is hard enough without jumping around in time. Excellent narration by Grover Garner. I never felt he "overdid" the words of the book. The reading is rapid, and not even this bothered me! He captured the feel of the events. I have to remark though that the Swedish feminist Emily Key is pronounced Emily "kay" not "key"! There was one very funny point where a reporter had a stuffed nose. I was laughing, the guy sounded like he was sorely plagued by nasal congestion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hanneke

    I only give 5 stars to books that either really touch me or really impress me. Of course, the book must also be well written. There is no doubt that TC Boyle is a master storyteller, comparable to Cormac McCarthey, in telling a tale that takes your breath away. This book definitely falls into the impressive category for me because it allowed me to look into the minds of individuals one is lucky enough not to be exposed to if one can help it. You hear about them and the shoot-outs involving them I only give 5 stars to books that either really touch me or really impress me. Of course, the book must also be well written. There is no doubt that TC Boyle is a master storyteller, comparable to Cormac McCarthey, in telling a tale that takes your breath away. This book definitely falls into the impressive category for me because it allowed me to look into the minds of individuals one is lucky enough not to be exposed to if one can help it. You hear about them and the shoot-outs involving them and you always wonder how they became what they are. Were they insane to begin with or did they become gradually such outrageous people who in the process adopted ideas that struck their violent fancy. I am talking about the likes of Timothy McVeigh or the Norwegian Anders Breivik and quite recently those people who had a shoot-out with the police in the woods of Oregon. There are supposedly quite a few of these people living in these forests. People who violently reject any state involvement. People who love their guns and who choose to see only phantom human specimens outside their trusted group. You know how delusional they are when they feel justified to shoot anyone who they perceive to be an enemy and that is about anyone to come near their proclaimed free empire in the woods. There are no likeable persons in the book. The protagonist, Adam, is clearly raving mad. His occasional girlfriend, the much older Sara, is delusional in her perceptions about state involvement in her life. Her acts of rebellion are of the milder sort, such as refusing to drive with a seatbelt, having no car insurance and rejecting a whole range of perceived state intrusions into her personal life which she was stupid enough to provoke attention to herself. She tries to ignore Adam's clearly insane actions and will not allow herself to realize that she is dealing with an extremely dangerous person. She even tells the cops who raid her house in search of him that she does not believe that he ever hurts anybody but, even if he did, whoever it was probably had it coming. Sara is the only person who ever defends Adam and the only person you feel halfway sorry for. But only halfway, because she is a very annoying woman. So, I was impressed by this book and would recommend it to people who like a peek into this very strange sub-culture that you do not come across in a book very often. The book reminded me a bit of 'The Fourth of July Creek' but, then again, that book was revolving around quite a different mindset.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    The Harder They Come revolves around three characters: Sten, a 70 year-old retired school principal and Vietnam vet; his mentally unbalanced son, Adam, 25 years old; and 40 year old paranoid libertarian Sara. Set in present-day Fort Bragg, California, the novel sees Adam’s mind slowly unravelling as he becomes more and more obsessed with historical figure John Colter, a scout on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Adam’s untreated schizophrenia, exacerbated by liquor and hard drugs, can only end one The Harder They Come revolves around three characters: Sten, a 70 year-old retired school principal and Vietnam vet; his mentally unbalanced son, Adam, 25 years old; and 40 year old paranoid libertarian Sara. Set in present-day Fort Bragg, California, the novel sees Adam’s mind slowly unravelling as he becomes more and more obsessed with historical figure John Colter, a scout on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Adam’s untreated schizophrenia, exacerbated by liquor and hard drugs, can only end one way once he grabs his gun and heads into the woods. I’m going to avoid spoilers because it’ll be a more powerful read if you go into it blind. The Harder They come is a brilliant novel. Like many of TC Boyle’s books, this one explores a number of issues, though violent American culture is at the forefront. Not just the United States’ gun culture (and yes he is rightfully critical of it), but the legacy of violence that reaches back to the early days of the Republic. The Colter flashbacks to the beginning of the 19th century remind us that Americans were once the underdogs and the Native Americans were dominant – a fact that would swiftly change as the century wore on. Sten is a veteran of Vietnam, a theatre of war that was an extension of American Imperialism from the last century, and Sara is extremely belligerent towards local and federal authority for, as she sees it, limiting her freedoms as a citizen. Adam, the youngest character in the cast, embodies all of those characters as a terrifying avatar of confused, but very real, carnage – a modern day wannabe mountain man waging his forest warfare on the government. For a relatively limited cast, Boyle covers an enormous number of subjects, weaving them into his narrative effortlessly: Mexican drug manufacturers destroying rural California, contemporary mental issues and their treatment (as well as lack of), gun control, extreme right wing politics, as well as more broad, traditional subjects like the differences between generations, fathers and sons, and the complexities of love. The chapters alternate between Sten, Sara and Adam, and the only part of the book I didn’t totally enjoy were some of Adam’s chapters once he loses it. Boyle writes these adopting the viewpoint of a paranoid schizophrenic off of his prescribed medicine and self-medicating with numerous illegal drugs (cocaine, meth, opium). These chapters are appropriately rambling, circuitous, and diverge at peculiar tangents, as this is supposedly Adam’s disordered mind, but it still made for some uninteresting passages. That and the ending – Boyle going on for just a few more pages than he should have. Otherwise, Boyle’s writing, characterisations, set pieces? Superb. Boyle always produces outstanding prose and his storytelling is rich and gripping. Each character is their own person with their own voice and world and the plot unfolds beautifully and tragically. It’s a fantastic story – a real literary thriller - from a modern master. The Harder They come is another excellent addition to this tremendously gifted writer’s remarkable oeuvre. (The novel is inspired by the 2011 case of Aaron Bassler however if you’re planning on reading this book, I would recommend not looking up his details until afterwards as Boyle parallels Bassler’s last few weeks with Adam’s very closely. For that matter, if you don’t know much about John Colter, I wouldn’t look him up until after either – the Colter passages will be much more exciting as a result.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    I have not enjoyed Boyle's more recent books, but by and large I'm inclined to view this as nothing more than a matter of taste. "Harder," though, really grabbed me. The main characters had depth. We get hints about their back-stories (Don't worry, these are not spoilers: father Sten was in Vietnam, but we don't know what he experienced there; Sarah doesn't view the US government as having any legitimacy, but we don't know what brought her to this, etc., but in the end we have to simply accept t I have not enjoyed Boyle's more recent books, but by and large I'm inclined to view this as nothing more than a matter of taste. "Harder," though, really grabbed me. The main characters had depth. We get hints about their back-stories (Don't worry, these are not spoilers: father Sten was in Vietnam, but we don't know what he experienced there; Sarah doesn't view the US government as having any legitimacy, but we don't know what brought her to this, etc., but in the end we have to simply accept them as they are, flaws and all. The language is muscular, bringing the land to vivid life. The story is a compelling one. It raises very interesting, complex questions about violence, anger, the bonds that tie us together -- or break us -- and the slippery nature of masculinity and heroism.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kata

    I like T.C. Boyle. I really do. Look up, I gave him two stars. You can't tell I like him, can you? When you are fond of an author it seems to me that every time you purchase a subsequent book by that author (new release or old) you feel assured that your precious book money is being spent very wisely. People make all sorts of investments. I wonder if most of us on Goodreads consider our books the most scrutinized and cherished investments we make in our lives. It's true of me anyway. Screw my st I like T.C. Boyle. I really do. Look up, I gave him two stars. You can't tell I like him, can you? When you are fond of an author it seems to me that every time you purchase a subsequent book by that author (new release or old) you feel assured that your precious book money is being spent very wisely. People make all sorts of investments. I wonder if most of us on Goodreads consider our books the most scrutinized and cherished investments we make in our lives. It's true of me anyway. Screw my stock portfolio! What interest am I earning on that mutual fund? Oh, I don't really care. But do you know that I found a leather bound edition of The Brothers Karanazov with pencil illustrations a few weeks ago? Oh! Now that would have been a good investment indeed! I didn't buy it though because I spent all my investment money on books I have never read. It was a day of intense investing! The Women is built on a solid concept. Look away from my two stars for a moment. Avert your eyes! No cheating...don't look at it. Boyle makes a grand attempt at detailing the account of Frank Lloyd Wright's life, monetary issues, the crazy locals, marital battles and the daily events at his home (Taliesin). The narrative is told from the perspective of a Japanese apprentice, Tadashi. I very much enjoyed Tadashi's small story line in comparison to Wright's. Go ahead, look at those two stars now. Blah! Those stars are something ugly, aren't they? Tadashi tells the history of Wright's romantic inclinations. I had a fleeting thought of "good investment" when we meet Olgivanna (Wright's last wife) but that was short lived because the novel is divided into two parts. Part one bundles three women (Olgivanna, Kitty, Mamah) into a small package. Boyle bundled the wrong women. He bundled the interesting ones! Good investment slowly sinking... Part two Tadashi introduces us to Miriam who grated painfully dull on my literary brain. Miriam and Wright's entanglement lasted eternally in this book and even poor Tadashi cannot make it the least bit interesting. My good investment had plummeted to rock bottom when Miriam's name lingered for more than a chapter and I was left with a penny stock. Boyle a penny stock!?! Oh the horror of it! The book has a redeeming quality, in that the account of Wright's life is told somewhat in reverse which does leave for a climactic ending. That gave Boyle the second star by the skin of his nose. You've seen his nose, right? Second star and further investment scrutiny for quite some time Mr. Boyle... Please do not write any more biographical fiction. Please. I struggled to finish this book. I struggled to see my investment through to the end. Wright was without question a genius and an egoist in a very entertaining way and finding the right woman to suit him must have been very hard but those women he did choose were the dullest creatures to walk this Earth, I swear. Oprah's significant other may be more interesting. What's his name again? Just kidding. I'm a Wisconsin resident and Wright's Taliesin is just a car ride away. I'm not fan of architecture, but I am a fan of Boyle and if Boyle had written this book in a more intriguing way I'd bet you, even with today's price of gas, I would have jumped in my car the very next weekend and gone off to visit Taliesin. A good investment book will make you do things like that. There are books we will not understand until we have had a thorough education in the subject matter first. Then there are books we read which educate us and cause us to educate ourselves further on our own, right? The latter, more often than not, being the better investment in my opinion. My lack of education in Wright did not matter but perhaps an interest would have made this novel more appealing. My investment was a poor one. My penny stock, "The Women" did much of nothing in the way of improving my library portfolio.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Holy superfluous adjectives, this book was tedious. This was my second attempt to read it, I realized when I started. Last time, I returned the print edition about two chapters in. This time, I made it about 3/4 through an audio book only because it was the background to a days-long painting project. Sure, Boyle can craft a gilded curlicue of a sentence with fleur de lis and a cherry on top, requiring both a dictionary and a map to find your way out of it. A well placed sentence like that I can Holy superfluous adjectives, this book was tedious. This was my second attempt to read it, I realized when I started. Last time, I returned the print edition about two chapters in. This time, I made it about 3/4 through an audio book only because it was the background to a days-long painting project. Sure, Boyle can craft a gilded curlicue of a sentence with fleur de lis and a cherry on top, requiring both a dictionary and a map to find your way out of it. A well placed sentence like that I can appreciate. A whole book of sentences like that, however, is too much. The choice of narrator -- a sycophantic Japanese intern -- was also annoying in its cudgel like efforts at painting Wright both as someone who inspired dedication despite his caddish and irresponsible behavior. Add also to the poor narrator choice and the overwrought sentences, several shifts back and forth to Wright's women as additional narrators. The sum is a twisty turny jumble of adjectives, vocabulary exercises, and shifting points of view that left me with a real desire to punch everyone in the book square in their variously and thoroughly over-described noses. Also, I realize this is a work of fiction, but Frank Lloyd Wright seemed like a real dick.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ann Sumner

    I liked it but... ...but I have burned my memory thoroughly looking for characters as distasteful and contemptuous as this lot. Stem and Carolee? What a couple of annoying cliches. Adam, okay, see of him I get (as a career high school teacher, I've known several Adams although none ever ended up like this), so I enjoyed him the.most. Now for the worst ass I've read about in years: Sara! What an absolute idiot. What a cliche she became. Knowing Adam was bad made her hot? If she gave him a hot meal, I liked it but... ...but I have burned my memory thoroughly looking for characters as distasteful and contemptuous as this lot. Stem and Carolee? What a couple of annoying cliches. Adam, okay, see of him I get (as a career high school teacher, I've known several Adams although none ever ended up like this), so I enjoyed him the.most. Now for the worst ass I've read about in years: Sara! What an absolute idiot. What a cliche she became. Knowing Adam was bad made her hot? If she gave him a hot meal, maybe she could tame him? Leapin' lizards, what YEAR is this? I wanted to reach through the pages and shake her really hard. I have no contract with Sara.

  16. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Frank Lloyd Wright=mysogynistic whore

  17. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    A Worthy Examination of the Ironies in Americans' Reactions 2 Violence The novel centers on a massive manhunt deep in the California woods sometime after 2001 for a young man who has committed 2 inexplicable murders. The father is a 70ish retired high school principal, who's just returned home from a cruise during which he choked to death a 20-year-old gangbanger trying to rob at gunpoint a group of his fellow senior citizens on a junket into the Costa Rican mountains. His son Adam is a mid-20s sch A Worthy Examination of the Ironies in Americans' Reactions 2 Violence The novel centers on a massive manhunt deep in the California woods sometime after 2001 for a young man who has committed 2 inexplicable murders. The father is a 70ish retired high school principal, who's just returned home from a cruise during which he choked to death a 20-year-old gangbanger trying to rob at gunpoint a group of his fellow senior citizens on a junket into the Costa Rican mountains. His son Adam is a mid-20s schizophrenic who at most times believes himself to be John Colter, an early 1800s mountain man who was part of the Lewis & Clark expedition, and under attack from tribes of Blackfoot and Crow Indians. In Adam's semi-lucid intervals, he meets and has carnal connections with a 42-year-old former teacher's aide (at the local high school), a right-wing nutter herself. This is a good book, most effective in revealing contradictions and ironies in Americans' reactions to violence (primarily the juxtaposition between the father's killing, arguably justified but no doubt an excessive reaction under the circumstances, versus the son's murders, committed while unquestionably insane). The book left me with an empty feeling, so I cannot necessarily recommend it unless you have a special interest in the subject matter or you're a right-wing fanatic who'd like to add some fuel to your fire.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    An absolutely terrific book – well-researched, consummately written, and addictively readable! I really feel Boyle is at his best when he writes biographical fiction; "The Women" is a wonderful addition to an already astounding canon of his bio-inspired work, which includes "The Road to Wellville" and "The Inner Circle." This new novel tells the interwoven stories of the women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life -- steadfast and obstinate Kitty Tobin Wright; erratic and opiate-addicted Miriam Noel; dis An absolutely terrific book – well-researched, consummately written, and addictively readable! I really feel Boyle is at his best when he writes biographical fiction; "The Women" is a wonderful addition to an already astounding canon of his bio-inspired work, which includes "The Road to Wellville" and "The Inner Circle." This new novel tells the interwoven stories of the women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life -- steadfast and obstinate Kitty Tobin Wright; erratic and opiate-addicted Miriam Noel; disciplined, yet eccentric Olgivanna Milanoff; and, of course, the passionate, political, and ultimately doomed Mamah Cheney. In addition to Frank’s loves, there are a slew of other formidable women who make up the story, including his clinging mother, his tough-as-nails housekeeper, and the timid Barbadian cook whose husband wreaked havoc on the great architect’s life. One of the most intriguing "women" in the book, though, is Frank’s Wisconsin estate, Taliesin, which is painted as more than just a physical building – it is also a psychological landscape. I was simply amazed and delighted by this book. Boyle does a phenomenal job of painting Frank Lloyd Wright as a complex and contradictory character. While you bristle at Frank's arrogance, you also understand wherein his charisma lay. He is a larger-than-life character that Boyle somehow makes incredibly lifelike. He is also quite sympathetic despite the fact that Boyle depicts him unapologetically. What makes this book such a stunning achievement (and one that, quite frankly [no pun intended:], completely surpasses Nancy Horan's "Loving Frank") is the sensitivity and intelligence with which Boyle tells the story. Rather than tell a simple, straightforward, linear narrative, the author frames the action with prefatory notes from a Japanese man who apprenticed at Taliesin. Tadashi's story is, in and of itself, a lovely and touching journey. To have his life story unfold during his retelling of Frank's is a stroke of creative brilliance, one that adds an incisive layer to the storytelling.

  19. 4 out of 5

    jo

    no. the story is nicely paced and relatively fun, i mean, if you are into that kind of stuff, but here are two big problems (the second way bigger than the first): 1. lots of language. a million adjectives. please move the story along. 2. i have no idea why i read about these three people. none. the story had all the potential of being a good exploration of about 150 different themes, but focused instead on the action (with a ton of words to wade through to get to the next bit), and one had no ide no. the story is nicely paced and relatively fun, i mean, if you are into that kind of stuff, but here are two big problems (the second way bigger than the first): 1. lots of language. a million adjectives. please move the story along. 2. i have no idea why i read about these three people. none. the story had all the potential of being a good exploration of about 150 different themes, but focused instead on the action (with a ton of words to wade through to get to the next bit), and one had no idea what we were being told, and why.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I am not going to rate this because I am only 35% in the book and though I never thought I would say this about one of his books, but I cannot connect at all with this story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    JoAnne Pulcino

    THE HARDER THEY COME T. C. Boyle Four stars because I love T.C. Boyle and his insights into the American psyche in fantastic prose and narrative. He is the keeper of the flame in helping us understand human nature, some of the origins of violence and the often tragic results. The four characters in the book are not necessarily people I care for, but most especially Sara who is unbelievably set in her ways and most of them are anti everything except a lover who is fifteen years younger and exception THE HARDER THEY COME T. C. Boyle Four stars because I love T.C. Boyle and his insights into the American psyche in fantastic prose and narrative. He is the keeper of the flame in helping us understand human nature, some of the origins of violence and the often tragic results. The four characters in the book are not necessarily people I care for, but most especially Sara who is unbelievably set in her ways and most of them are anti everything except a lover who is fifteen years younger and exceptionally mentally handicapped. Mr. Boyle always challenges us to a greater understanding of ourselves, our values and the values of our country. I champion him and his deep commitment to looking at the greater issues. He brings them out into the light and lets you form your own ideas and to mull over the way you feel. By way of the highest praise, I don’t know if THE TORTILLA CURTAIN will ever be topped in his large repertoire. Always thought provoking and a good read, Mr. Boyle, thank you.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I did not know anything about what this book was about other than the fact that I was attracted by the author TC Boyle. If you know the name of one architect that name is probably Frank Lloyd Wright. While there may be many other famous architects, his is the only name I know. As I began listening to this book I thought the women referred to in the title might be the relatively few women who worked as assistance to Wright during his career. That might make an interesting story since architecture I did not know anything about what this book was about other than the fact that I was attracted by the author TC Boyle. If you know the name of one architect that name is probably Frank Lloyd Wright. While there may be many other famous architects, his is the only name I know. As I began listening to this book I thought the women referred to in the title might be the relatively few women who worked as assistance to Wright during his career. That might make an interesting story since architecture is a pretty male dominated profession but the story was not about those unique women. It was about the four women who were the significant others in this famous architects life. Apparently Frank Loyd Wright has pretty poor public relations in portraying his human fallibilities. As is often true about famous or brilliant man his fallibilities focused on his relationships with the women in his life. That is complicated by the fact that I am not sure if this book would claim to be a biography or if it is a novel based on some amount of fact. A history book all novel I guess we would call it. For some reason the book is called in reverse order although some events that I referenced earlier are told in detail later. Frank Loyd Wright lived in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. As an architect he was fairly prolific. Reading this book makes me want to seek out books of photographs of his architectural creations. I did not realize that his home bass was in Wisconsin and finding pictures of the house where much of this book happened would be fascinating. For me one of the enduring parts of this book was the many many references to rooms being heated by fireplaces. Another aspect of Wright’s life what is that he lived quite a bit of it in community. Many people shared the housing complexes he designed in Wisconsin including the people who worked on constructing the buildings as well as the draftsman and other servants. At times extended family and others share the living space and meals were often a dozen or more people. I am a person who in my seven decades has had relationships with women lasting two, seven, 13, And 17 years so I have some sympathy with the story of a man who has several significant relationships. But he lived in an era where switching wives was not so acceptable as it is today. His story of how he left his first wife when he fell in love with another woman matches my experience so I have some sympathy for him. But it earned him a lot of grief. You could think of him (and me) as scum or just think of him as a person who was a victim of timing. I think he was presented as a character of very mixed qualities. Definitely a hard guy to live with!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    The Women by TC Boyle has an extremely interesting premise: tell the story of the love lives of Frank Lloyd Wright through an uninterested third party. The narrator brings nothing to the story and is beyond superfluous. The narrator also makes use of a lot of footnotes that do nothing except break up the overall storytelling. Relying heavily on footnotes is a very lazy way of writing. The reader has to stop in the middle of sentences and look up the tiny print footnotes and it completely takes o The Women by TC Boyle has an extremely interesting premise: tell the story of the love lives of Frank Lloyd Wright through an uninterested third party. The narrator brings nothing to the story and is beyond superfluous. The narrator also makes use of a lot of footnotes that do nothing except break up the overall storytelling. Relying heavily on footnotes is a very lazy way of writing. The reader has to stop in the middle of sentences and look up the tiny print footnotes and it completely takes one out of the moment. Not to mention that on several pages there were multiple footnotes annotated by strange symbols and I found myself getting lost on the page. Too much work if you just want to enjoy the story. Also, the narrator (who has little to do with the actual story) must introduce each section by giving some asides to the reader which add nothing to the overall book. Many, many pages are wasted in this manner. My other complaint about the story is that every "woman" had a redundant story. They each have their little quirks: one left her children to be with the Master, one was a crazy morphine junky and the other was a refugee from her home country. However, this is the only thing that separates each woman... they all have the same issue with F L Wright: he is pompous, controlling, demanding, unreasonable but must be the greatest lover in the history of men in order to get these (mostly) smart women to endure anything for him. And that their stories are told backwards...that is to say that they start with the most recent wife and go backwards through time to the first pair of wives (and the first one isn't really given any time at all). But the women all have the same problems: broken promises, in debt because of Wright's madness allows him to owe thousands of dollars to the grocer or the laborers and then wonder why they can't just give him whatever he wants because he has graced the peons with the presence of genius. All this book confirmed for me that Frank Lloyd Wright is an unreasonable, unstable user. So what if he is an artist? He doesn't know how to treat people. Ultimately this is a modern historical novel and I didn't learn anything that I couldn't have looked up on Google about these women. A big miss for me from TC Boyle that was lazily executed and redundant.

  24. 4 out of 5

    William Koon

    The Harder They Come is a near perfect fiction. The characters are believable. The subject matters. The themes are solid and not in your face. Boyle explores an America that is compared to an America that was. We look at Viet Nam, the new right, old age, mental instability, immigration, crime, tourism. All are found wanting in the four main characters. Adam, the environmentalist warrior, is a totally believable character cut out of the full cloth of disaffecting and disaffective contemporary you The Harder They Come is a near perfect fiction. The characters are believable. The subject matters. The themes are solid and not in your face. Boyle explores an America that is compared to an America that was. We look at Viet Nam, the new right, old age, mental instability, immigration, crime, tourism. All are found wanting in the four main characters. Adam, the environmentalist warrior, is a totally believable character cut out of the full cloth of disaffecting and disaffective contemporary youth. Following him is like watching a Greek tragedy unfold. Yes, we know the ending already, but watching how we get there never fails to thrill us. His father represents the failure of rage that made the Viet Nam war and which now fuels the golf links. Adam’s mother is a study in subtleness of expression and living.: the life not well led. That could be applied to them all. Sara, the most interesting of the bunch, is a slipped wing nut who is a large bosomed combo of Lucy Ball and Emma Goldberg. Never once does Boyle lose control of some very complex structural devices. Never once is he at odds with his language. T.C. Boyle has written a very important work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    For the 30 years that I've been reading the works of T. C. Boyle, he has never let me down. His unbridled curiosity has led him to write clear, unsentimental, non-cliched books that go down so smoothly, I'm usually surprised that I've reached the end. Whether it's the Kinseys, 1970's era hippies, settlers on islands rearing sheep or the wives of Frank Lloyd Wright, he imbues his well researched books with characters who find themselves dealing with unexpected situations in unexpected ways. This For the 30 years that I've been reading the works of T. C. Boyle, he has never let me down. His unbridled curiosity has led him to write clear, unsentimental, non-cliched books that go down so smoothly, I'm usually surprised that I've reached the end. Whether it's the Kinseys, 1970's era hippies, settlers on islands rearing sheep or the wives of Frank Lloyd Wright, he imbues his well researched books with characters who find themselves dealing with unexpected situations in unexpected ways. This latest, a contemporary examination into lives that are complex, exasperating, and horrifying, held me from page one until the end.

  26. 5 out of 5

    J. Lynn

    I couldn't put it down; it was totally mesmerizing. But the events of the last part were so incredible, so horrifying and so fascinating (and horrifying!! have I mentioned horrifying?!) that it's hard to even remember the rest. It makes me wonder if it would have been possible to have written this book without the One Event totally eclipsing the rest of the novel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Back in 2007 when I first started doing book reviews on a regular basis, one of the first older titles I tackled was by the magnificent T.C. Boyle, because of him being almost a textbook example of the type of author perfect for this site's "Tales from the Completist" series -- he has a wide range of books (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Back in 2007 when I first started doing book reviews on a regular basis, one of the first older titles I tackled was by the magnificent T.C. Boyle, because of him being almost a textbook example of the type of author perfect for this site's "Tales from the Completist" series -- he has a wide range of books out now, each roughly as popular as the others, with significant differences between each but common themes to them all, a writer who has by now proven his importance to literary history but who continues to crank out new novels on a regular basis. So I was quite happy to say the least to recently stumble across his latest at my neighborhood library, 2009's The Women, which like many of his previous titles uses a true incident at its core in order to spin a seriocomic tale around it; in this case, a semi-biographical look at the life of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, seen through the eyes of the four lovers he had as an adult, three of whom were eventually wives and an overlapping three of whom were at first illicit mistresses. Although to Wright purists, let's make it clear right away that it's only a certain chunk of Wright's complicated and event-filled life that Boyle looks at here -- his decades spent at Taliesin, that is, the cutting-edge compound in the back woods of Wisconsin where he lived in the middle years of his life, which started simply as a retirement home for his ailing mother but eventually became an Objectivist-style refuge from the mouthbreathers of the world for all manner of haughty intellectuals, where residents were held to a more European standard of living (looser relationships but tighter morals), and where Wright wielded an iron fist over such forward-thinking pet habits as a ban on smoking and alcohol. And in fact, presented in this way, it's easy to see why Boyle would be attracted to such material to begin with, because within it are the seeds that also make up the two older novels of his I've already read, 2003's Drop City and 1993's The Road to Wellville (and I'm sure more of his books that I'm not yet familiar with); after all, they each deal with voluntarily isolated groups of "true believers" ensconced in rural American utopian enclaves, earnest yet slightly crazy people living existences defined by bizarrely specific rules, under the tight control of a cultish, eccentric leader, in this case making such a story work by ignoring Wright's early years in Chicago and late life in Arizona, instead focusing on his years in the Upper Midwest and all the dysfunctional events that took place there. Because make no mistake, there were plenty of dysfunctional events that took place at Taliesin, a wealth of strange turns that keeps this thick yet easily readable story clicking along at a fast pace -- a man who was simply born to love women, Wright was one of the first big public figures at the end of the Victorian Age to embrace the idea of couples cohabitating without being married (the proverbial "living in sin"), with Taliesin quickly dubbed by the press as a smokily erotic den of iniquity, where an endless series of east-coast showgirls, European bohemians, and other undesirables maintained a rather steady revolving door all through the Edwardian Age and then into Modernism, as Wright's personal fortunes went from great to terrible to great again, using the Wisconsin campus itself as a rather literal living laboratory for his cutting-edge theories involving building materials, urban planning and more, keeping afloat in the lean years by selling off some of his antique Japanese prints, one of the biggest and most prestigious collections in Western hands at the time. Much like his other books, then, Boyle uses this milieu to spin a tale by turns equally tragic and funny, a look at these years that clearly comes from a place of love and admiration, but that doesn't hesitate to get dark or critical whenever the occasion is warranted. And that's a fine line to tread, frankly, when basing such a story on true events, which is a big part of Boyle's magic, and why he's such an obsessively loved author in the first place; because his dedication to deep academic-style research keeps books like these honest in their details, while his sensitivity and fine touch keeps them emotionally honest as well, not lazy hatchet jobs despite their many cringe-inducing moments but rather these ironically sweet odes to the perpetual complexity of the human spirit, of the ephemeral traits that make all of us admired in some circumstances and despised in others. (And in fact Boyle even structures The Women in a way so to emphasize this duality, in effect telling the story chronologically backwards, so that each section starts with his previous lover as villain and the new lover as hero, but with the next section presenting that villain now as the new hero and the lover before her as the new villain, an ingenious framing device for a story that's ultimately about a charming man who unfortunately got tired of his lovers rather quickly.) As with the other titles of his I've now read, this all adds up by the end to a rather delightful experience, a pleasing mix of academic focus and beach-read thrills which is what makes Boyle one of my favorite living writers on the planet right now; and if you've never tackled one of his oddly compelling titles before yourself, this is an excellent one to start with, not least of which is because of the storyline itself being already so well-known and thoroughly documented. It comes highly recommended today, and makes me anxious to jump right back into Boyle's funny, ribald universe as soon as I can. Out of 10: 9.3

  28. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    In his new work, "The Women," the endlessly imaginative novelist T.C. Boyle sets his sights on the gifted architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a larger-than-life figure whose colorful exploits seem an ideal fit for Boyle's love of protagonists both epic and flaky (see "The Road to Wellville," "The Inner Circle" and many more). Boyle's rendition of Wright strides about with appropriate ferocity, "a repository of playfulness and merriment ... that only underscored the magnetism of his genius" yet "famous In his new work, "The Women," the endlessly imaginative novelist T.C. Boyle sets his sights on the gifted architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a larger-than-life figure whose colorful exploits seem an ideal fit for Boyle's love of protagonists both epic and flaky (see "The Road to Wellville," "The Inner Circle" and many more). Boyle's rendition of Wright strides about with appropriate ferocity, "a repository of playfulness and merriment ... that only underscored the magnetism of his genius" yet "famous for ... his temper, especially if he felt he wasn't getting the respect -- adulation, worship even -- he felt he deserved." Wright was a short, Napoleonic statue of a man whose blazing personality remained unvanquished in the face of relentlessly rocky personal and public dalliances. His one-dimensionality in the book feels intentional, as Boyle uses Wright's cheerful, blockheaded stoicism as a foil for his true central characters, the women Wright drove to the edge of madness and beyond. Using an intriguing structural device, Boyle works backward down the timeline of Wright's romances. "The Women" begins with the young dancer Olga Lazovich Milanoff, whom the architect would marry and bear a child with while in his 60s, and ends with the story of his first mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. The book's middle section focuses on Wright's second wife, Maude Miriam Noel, a passionate, wildly possessive, endlessly conniving force of nature whose unbalanced personality seems both the only one equal to Wright's bravado and the one most susceptible to its obliviousness. Boyle's backward motion proves its value in his novel's final third, landing on the point in Wright's life that has shaped everything that has happened before: the baffling murder of Cheney, her children and some of Wright's workers. Boyle is at his furious best in this final chapter, depicting the irrepressible rage of the murderer and the details of his terrible deed (committed with an ax) while also, miraculously, affording the killer a modicum of humanity. It's a dazzling piece of storytelling that cauterizes the meandering, overlong threads of the previous pages, filling the air with the smoking remnants of Wright's house, which the killer set ablaze. The incident arrives with such searing finality, it feels as if Wright's story should be over. Until one remembers that he survived this massacre, away on business when it happened. That his story is really just beginning.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    THE HARDER THEY COME, by T.C. Boyle is a realistic character driven plot centred around three main characters; Sten, Adam and Sara. This is a compelling tale about the relationship between these flawed damaged people, and touches on some complex often contradictory moral issues from various perspectives. Seventy year old ex-marine, Vietnam veteran Sten is reluctantly hailed a hero when, on vacation to Central America with his wife, he disarms and kills a mugger, one of a gang that has been menaci THE HARDER THEY COME, by T.C. Boyle is a realistic character driven plot centred around three main characters; Sten, Adam and Sara. This is a compelling tale about the relationship between these flawed damaged people, and touches on some complex often contradictory moral issues from various perspectives. Seventy year old ex-marine, Vietnam veteran Sten is reluctantly hailed a hero when, on vacation to Central America with his wife, he disarms and kills a mugger, one of a gang that has been menacing elderly tourists during group tour stops made in Costa Rica. Sten is uncomfortable at first with the praise and hero status he receives from his fellow holiday makers and from people when he returns home to Northern California. Inevitably Sten accepts the complimentary drinks and praises, but then faces the polemic emotional extreme when his own son Adam kills two people. Sara, a 40 something divorcee, is a believer in the anti authoritarian movement and manages to get herself into trouble with the law on a pretty minor issue, refusing to wear a seat belt. In the process her much loved dog is impounded and she is taken into cells. Upon release she picks up a young hitchhiker, Adam, and rants about the law and how she's going to get her dog back. Adam, a loner and self trained survivalist in his 20's has serious mental health issues. He calls himself Colter and has adopted the lifestyle of his role model. Sara's paranoia and Adam's schizophrenia is a volatile mix and as Adam becomes increasingly more unstable and loses his grip on reality. It's only a matter of time before events spiral to an explosive and violent tragedy. Highly recommended. 'The Harder They Come' left me thinking about things long after turning the final page. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and learned a little about John Colter the original mountain man in the 19th Century. This is my first T.C. Boyle novel but most certainly not my last. Disclaimer: I received a digital copy from the Publisher for an honest, unbiased review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sean Owen

    TC Boyle needs to explore some new terrain. In "The Harder They Come" Boyle yet again explores the American character and independent spirit in their relation to the harsh beauty of nature and the soft easy times we live in. It really seems as if half his books tread this same ground and at this late stage in his career he seems to have run out of interesting things to say about it. Boyle also writes with a measure of disdain for his characters. I get the impression he thinks he understands peop TC Boyle needs to explore some new terrain. In "The Harder They Come" Boyle yet again explores the American character and independent spirit in their relation to the harsh beauty of nature and the soft easy times we live in. It really seems as if half his books tread this same ground and at this late stage in his career he seems to have run out of interesting things to say about it. Boyle also writes with a measure of disdain for his characters. I get the impression he thinks he understands people better than he actually does. He creates characters that are cliches, like the grumpy old man retiree and ultra-libertarian here, and then writes mockingly about them. It's hard to feel at all invested in characters that feel so artificial. I'd love for Boyle to hook up with an editor who could excise all mentions of food from his writing. 20 or so pages could easily be shaved off this book if we removed all the tiresome stuff about this character eating fish rolled in flour and fried or that character eating fresh picked spinach.

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