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The Aviator's Wife: A Novel Paperback – November 26, 2013
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Melanie Benjamin on The Aviator’s Wife
What was I thinking, writing a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh?
That is a question I asked myself every time I sat down to work on The Aviator’s Wife.
For Anne Morrow Lindbergh guarded her privacy fiercely and, at times, I felt she was eluding me just to make that point! My other heroines—Alice Liddell in Alice I Have Been and Lavinia Warren Stratton in The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb—gave up their secrets easily, almost eagerly. Anne, however, did not.
But that was what attracted me to her story in the first place—because of how elusive Anne remains to this day. She is known in fragments but never completely. Some are aware of her child’s horrific kidnapping and murder. Others remember her chiefly as the shy, pretty bride of the most heroic man of his time. Many women revere her as an early feminist writer.
But few know her entire story, including her major accomplishments as an aviator in her own right, her grit and determination, her inner strength. Always she seems willing to stand in the tall shadow of her husband, Charles Lindbergh. And it was her marriage that fascinated and obsessed me; this marriage between two extraordinary and very different individuals under the relentless glare of the spotlight. This operatic life they led, through dizzying heights of accomplishment and celebrity to the devastating lows of what Anne always saw as the price they paid for flying too close to the sun.
It seemed to me, as I studied her, standing always slightly behind her husband, that there was a sly smile, a gleam in her eyes that she was always suppressing; a secret strength hidden from the world and even, at times, herself. This was the Anne Morrow Lindbergh whose story I wanted to tell. It’s time for Anne to step out from behind her husband’s shadow once and for all and be the heroine in her own epic story.
Photos from The Aviator's Wife
Courtesy of SDAM
Copyright: Lindbergh picture collection, 1860-1980 (inclusive). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University
*Starred Review* Benjamin, author of the highly acclaimed Alice I Have Been (2010) and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb (2011), delivers another stellar historical novel based on the experiences of an extraordinary woman. In this outing, she spotlights Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of wildly famous Charles Lindbergh and pioneering aviatrix and accomplished author in her own right. Though their courtship is the stuff of every girl’s romantic fantasy, time and reality combine to reveal a much different story. Plagued by tragedy and often stifled by her domineering husband, she eventually manages to carve out a quasi-independent life and career for herself. Fictional biography at its finest; serious readers may want to pair this with the recently published Against Wind and Tide, the sixth and final volume of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s copious letters and journal entries. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top customer reviews
Despite following (generally) the historical timeline, the book remains a novel with Anne as the heroine, overwhelmed by the attentions of a famous hero as a young women and managing the demands of a controlling, often insensitive, husband during a long marriage. Although her motivations can sometimes seem a little vague and frustrating, author Benjamin creates a rich picture of a complex woman who evolves over time.
Most Americans have a very threadbare knowledge of Charles A. Lindbergh and the life he lived. We know of his crossing the Atlantic with the Spirit of St. Louis, and we know (perhaps more vaguely) of the kidnapping a death of his infant son. Being an extremely private individual, Lindy shunned the spotlight despite being a beloved, sought-after hero. Intimate knowledge of his personal private life is little known. This gripping book by Mel Benjamin opens the secrets that Charles Lindbergh wanted forever kept in darkness. Although historical fiction, Benjamin writes as though she was there witnessing it all, and this is what makes it so compelling. The book chronicles the story of how Anne Morrow Lindbergh emerged from the impossibly long and dark shadow of her husband to realizing a life that was fulfilling and meaningful.
This book should absolutely be on everyone's reading "Bucket List".
I really enjoyed this book and it was a page turner for me even though I knew what events were coming from previously reading the diaries of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She realistically presents interaction of the characters beginning with Anne and her parents and siblings and captures the changes in the dynamics of Charles and Anne Lindbergh over the years. The book begins in 1974 with Anne and Charles who is dying of leukemia. She and Charles have a final conversation then the books flashes back to specific events in their lives: the time Anne and Charles met in Mexico, their early flights together, the kidnapping of their son Charles Junior, Charles and Anne visiting Nazi Germany, Charles fall from grace in the early forties, and the marital problems that beset the pair in the fifties with both having extramarital affairs. Anne becomes her own person as the years go by and defines her image with writing the bestseller Gift from the Sea.
I know it is a fictional account but some liberties were taken--the author does indicate for the most part what was "real" and not "real" in the accounts. There were some liberties that should have not been taken. Notably,Elisabeth Morrow Morgan, Anne's sister is depicted as being infatuated with Connie Chilton (with whom she founded a school) and Anne catches them in an embrace. Elisabeth was decidedly interested in men as Anne's diaries testify and had many suitors until she settled down and married Aubrey Morgan. Constance Morrow, who married Elisabeth's widower Aubrey ,all but disappears even though she and Anne were vacationing together while Anne worked on Gift from the Sea. Also in 1974 Scott Lindbergh is said to have a wife and child--at the time he was still married to his first wife with whom he had no children. I think the author could have done without her fictional account of their first flight in Mexico--it would have been difficult to bring about and it didn't add much to the narrative. Anne and Charles courtship according to the diaries began months later when Charles called Anne and invited her to fly with him. It is also doubtful that Anne found any love letters that indicated Charles was keeping mistresses in Germany and had several children by them. Also, Anne in the seventies flying a plane over Long island and the plane long in disuse seemed very unrealistic. She just jumped in the plane and it all came back to her despite obvious changes in air traffic patterns since the time she flew way back when.
To gauge more of the relationship of the couple, the diaries of Charles and Anne Lindbergh should be read and Scott Berg's biography of Charles Lindbergh and the writings of Reeve Lindbergh.
Overall though it was a good read.
I don't recall any bad language, although there may have been one or two words. There is very minor sexual content here and there, but definitely nothing even close to explicit. No violence.
If you like historical fiction, this is a pretty good one.