Timeless: Love, Morgenthau, and Me
“It is always complex to write about someone you love. I am fortunate to have a husband who allowed me to do this: to talk about the personal life that he has kept so private during his forty-five years as a public figure; to divulge the unknown stories behind his major cases; to reveal the intimacies… His was an act of love, and it is in tribute to him that this book is written.” TIMELESS by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lucinda Franks is a remarkably open, intimate look at a long-range marriage of a couple who live in the rarified air of money and fame.
I’m glad Franks offers such a long prologue; it’s an explanation I would have been searching for if I had just started reading the book without seeing this first. After the recounting of her life as a ’60s revolutionary and Morgenthau’s staid, proper life as an upstanding attorney from an upstanding super wealthy family, the following information would have made me even more uncomfortable: “I cover your mouth, muffling your chatter, and plant little kisses down your belly.” I’m sorry, did someone sneak a copy of 50 SHADES OF GREY into my TIMELESS book jacket? Nope, it’s just Franks telling us how much she loves having sex with her husband. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…
My brother worked with Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. It is difficult to put the visage of his lined, serious face topped with white hair together with his wife’s remembrances of his tender embraces and their lovemaking among the cliffs of Martha’s Vineyard beaches. It is hard to imagine any prominent legal mind allowing his or her journalist spouse to expose such personal details about their life together. But clearly Morgenthau loves his wife dearly, and thus Franks is able to tell us their love story with intimate details that seem as if they belong in another kind of book.
"This is the kind of book that you read open-mouthed. It is an intriguing look at some very famous people, but has a strange resonance since Franks and Morgenthau are a high-achieving society couple with a rich intellectual life. You will not be able to put it down, waiting to see what next adventure the two get into together."
The many decades that separate the lives of Morgenthau and Franks make this a most extreme May-December relationship. TIMELESS is a peek inside a very privileged world --- two actually: the world of serious money and the world of great professional success. Both husband and wife were ensconced in professions that gave them enormous opportunities, which they took with gusto. Then there are the little things: the houses and apartments, the fancy vacations, the name dropping. This is a world in which most of us will never live. And Franks, using all her writerly powers, manages to put us right inside this wealthy world, where you sit next to playwright Lillian Hellman at picnics and have intense moments with Hillary and Bill Clinton on the night Princess Diana dies. Later, on the press plane with Hillary during her presidential campaign, Franks wonders if she remembers they shared that sad night.
Later on, as the relationship deepens, Franks finds her foothold in the world of step-parenthood, and then eventually the couple has their own kids. The world of their blended family takes a spot right along their upwardly mobile careers throughout the story and gives a more average human experience for us to relate to and engage in.
This kind of open door policy is granted usually when some member of the family dies and then the “real” story of their life comes out. Morgenthau is still alive, and Franks never says why now is the time to reveal all of these very personal details about their life. But that’s not all. Having written a book about her father’s experiences with PTSD, she helps to uncover her husband’s similar experiences, all of which are also related to us in this tome. So now we are privy to the bedroom, interior monologues, public fame, private joys and luxuries. The one thing you can say about TIMELESS is that it is fearless and doesn’t leave any aspect of their lives aside when tearing through their own snapshots and memories.
This is the kind of book that you read open-mouthed. It is an intriguing look at some very famous people, but has a strange resonance since Franks and Morgenthau are a high-achieving society couple with a rich intellectual life. You will not be able to put it down, waiting to see what next adventure the two get into together. TIMELESS is a fascinating book written in a narcissistic tone by a journalist whose real life beats any of the lives she ever reported on throughout her career.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on September 5, 2014