I finally finished And the World She Made today.
Full disclosure - I didn't know a whole lot about Ayn Rand when I bought the book. I'd read her works, but as far as her personal life, not so much. I was familiar with the basics of her philosophy but mostly through her novels.
I'm staying on record as recommending this book even though I have more questions now than when I started. Heller spent a fair amount of time summarizing We The Living and The Fountainhead. I didn't notice it so much with Atlas Shrugged.
I wish Heller had made more of an attempt to explain why Frank O'Conner let Rand so totally dominate him the way she did, but I guess that was just his way. But I don't understand it. He clearly didn't want to leave their California home when she decided they were moving to New York, and he clearly was miserable in New York. Why did he put up with it? Not to mention the long affair with Nathan Branden!
The relationship between the Brandens and the O'Conners was just bizarre to me, but maybe I'm sheltered. For Rand and Branden to have these huge lovers quarrels with Frank O'Conner sitting in the same room, mute, is unreal to me. Even worse, when Branden and Rand finally ended their relationship/affair, she confronts him and his discretions in a scorned-woman, rage infused confrontation that I can't imagine any husband having to sit through. It's your WIFE, man! Why are you putting up with that?!
Branden's wife, Barbara, tolerated the affair as well, so I guess Frank O'Conner wasn't alone in his status.
Heller says that after that final break, Branden never saw or spoke to Rand again, but I wondered if he wrote or tried to contact her when Frank died; Barbara did. Rand and Barbara Branden reconciled, which I thought was nice for them both.
At any rate, it's a fascinating read. I learned a lot about Rand, a lot about her philosophy, and have come off agreeing most, that she was nutty as a fruitcake. Fascinating, but nutty.