The Aviator’s Wife
by Melanie Benjamin
Why did you choose this book? I was attracted to the cover and the Lindbergh connection
When did you read this book? May 2013
Who should read this book? fans of historical fiction who are open to some embellishment
For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.
I picked this book up because I was attracted to the cover. Once I picked it up and saw it was about Anne and Charles Lindbergh, I was hooked.
I grew up in the city Charles named his historic plane after, and Lindbergh is pretty much still considered a hero around here. So I have to say, I was pretty disillusioned by the book’s treatment of him as tyrannical. Of course the story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was well known to me, but I was shocked to learn Charles had three other families! I was just as disillusioned to learn that Anne, too, had an affair! We never learned about THAT in school!
This book did what all good historical fiction does, and that is to inspire me to look up more about the subject and continue learning. From what I learned, the author for the most part worked with facts. However, she admits that the ‘emotional’ parts were from her imagination. At this risk of including some spoilers here, I have to observe that we really don’t know if Anne ever knew about the other families Charles had. The author believes she did. Anne’s daughter believes she did not. We also don’t know how tyrannical Charles really was towards Anne. One thing that bothered me, especially in the early parts of the book, was how Anne just ‘took’ the things Charles did, and did not stand up to him or voice her opinion because she was afraid to upset him. She left her children for extended times because she was afraid Charles might fly off and not return if she didn’t go along. Of course, this is a book of fiction, and we don’t really know if it happened this way. But to me, Anne came off as just as dishonest about who she was, hiding her true self from Charles, as she seems to accuse him of being towards her. I have to wonder if, had she had stood up to him from the beginning, insisting her choices and opinions hold as much weight as his in their decisions, whether things may have been different in their marriage.
From the historical aspect, one thing that really left an impression on me is how quickly the world changed after Charles made his flight across the ocean. While transcontinental flight is now an ordinary experience, it is hard to realize that Charles took his ‘impossible’ flight less than 100 years ago, and the whole airline industry sprung up in just a few years after that! As I read about Anne and Charles traveling to Europe in the 1930’s, it was amazing to realize that people could not just book the next flight and expect to be in another country the next day.
I really did enjoy this book and it made an impression on me. But in the end, I have to make a choice, much as Anne did in the book, about the Charles I choose to remember. For me, I choose to remember him as the hero who eased the world into flight as an everyday occurrance, rather than remembering him as a tragically flawed character.
My Rating: ★★★★ 4 Stars