Thursday, April 10, 2014

From the Bookshelf: The Aviator's Wife

Last night I finished up The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin.

This is a fictious account of the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  The "quiet,dutiful" daughter of the US ambassador to Mexico, Anne Morrow is introduced to the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his transAtlantic flight in 1927.  The book chronicles their life together, from his early days as the pioneer of American aviation, through the sensational kidnapping of their first-born son, through the years of WWII (when Lindbergh was reviled as a Nazi supporter) and to his death of leukemia in the 1970s.

When I finished up the book, I read the author's several-page notes at the end.  She remarked that when she spoke to people about the Lindberghs, while folks knew the snippets of history surrounding this famous couple - the Spirit of St. Louis, the kidnapping, etc. - no one really seemed to know the characters involved. The author stated that she wrote this book about Anne since she was the one who was the glue in this relationship, the one who held the family together, presented Charles's public persona, guided his memoirs, wrote accounts of his flights.  (Anne also is an authoress in her own right, having written the book Gift From the Sea in mid-life.)

It's hard not to be interested and fascinated in the details of the lives of these two people, and I guess that's where I struggled a bit with this book.  So much of the personal details have been edited from sources used that it was hard for me to really get a grasp on either of them.  Lindbergh himself was a notoriously private person and, if the book is close to the truth, also a controlling person who found the world as black or white, with no gray at all in it.  I never felt like I actually knew who Charles Lindbergh, the person, was from reading this book, nor, in many respects, Anne - and that's why I like to read this sort of book.... to learn more about the people beyond the cut-and-dried facts of their history.   There are glimpses of Anne that are tantalizing and made me want to know more about her.  For instance, she was the first licensed glider pilot in the US - but there's just a quick mention of that and then we move on.  I'd like to have known more about her relationship with her sister Elisabeth (who died as a young woman), as well.

I'd give this book a B.  It was interesting and I certainly learned quite a bit about the lives of the Lindbergh's, but I think I would like to have had Anne step more out of the overwhelming shadow of Charles Lindbergh in this story of hers, and get a little more of the limelight.  She seems a fascinating and interesting person I'd want to know better.

Next up - Blue Asylum.

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