Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Behind the Hero (Historical Fiction)

Charles Lindbergh made his mark in history with the first non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. That daring feat made him an American hero, famous and sought after the rest of his life.  And right behind him was his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She endured not only the relentless public frenzy, but also Lindbergh’s exacting, serious, and controlling ways.  Most heart-breakingly, she endured the kidnapping of their first son, Charlie.  

This historical fiction is told from Anne’s point of view. She gives us insight into her life with the living legend, how they met, how he taught her to become an aviatrix, learn morse code, and navigate by the stars.  She lets us into her struggle to find privacy and then courage when their son was held for randsom, when their lives were changed forever.  She tells us of their marriage, Charles’s expectations of her as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker.  We learn of her lonliness, their infidelity—what it meant to be the wife hidden behind the hero.

I found this book to be fascinating.  Of course, I knew about Lucky Lindy’s historical flight, but I never considered what his life was like after that flight, after the horrific kidnapping of their son, what type of personal life he led, or what it would be like to be the wife of such a celebrity, and the quiet strength required to live in the shadows of the acclaimed aviator.

This was a book club selection which all our members enjoyed.  We discussed this novel at length pointing out some of the surprising elements and some contradictions in Lindbergh’s personality and their relationship. His controlling ways, for example, were what motivated Anne to do some of the things she may never have pulled off on her own.  Besides flying and navigating, Lindbergh was the one who urged Anne on to write and ultimately gave her the confidence to move forward with her passion.  We found out Lindbergh was a Nazi sympathizer, worked on inventing an artificial heart, and had numerous secret affairs that resulted in several illegitimate children.  Yet in the end, Anne seemed to be his rock, the one he connected with, the one he wanted to come back to. She feared him, respected him, and loved him. 

A high-flying thumbs-up for this book.

Other books about aviation pioneers that I’ve enjoyed:

Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator by Doris L. Rich
Biography of an amazing woman, Bessie Coleman, who worked two jobs to save money in order to earn her pilot’s license in France in 1921. She is the first African-American aviatrix in the U.S. and became a sensation as a barnstormer.

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Memoir about a woman who grew up in Kenya and became the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic in 1936.

Happy Reading,


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