Book Review: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

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Melanie Benjamin captures Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s extraordinary years of marriage to Lucky Lindy and brings them to life through the pages of this captivating story.

From Goodreads:

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 celebrated 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.

Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Aviator’s Wife is the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a wife, mother, seasoned pilot, accomplished writer and most famously, Lucky Lindy’s co-pilot through life. The book spans 46 years of a very eventful marriage. It’s written in an engaging way, sometimes glimpsing into the future before continuing with the past.

The story opens to a fresh young Anne who, visiting family on break from college, meets, quite starry-eyed, a young, dashing Charles Lindbergh back from his famous flight to Paris. She’s instantly smitten with him, or the idea of him, and grabs the chance to come out of the shadow of her older sister and the normal housewife life she thought she was destined to have and let Charles sweep her off to soaring heights, as she becomes his wife.

Anne soon finds that life is certainly exciting as her and Charles embark on flying adventures and she accomplishes some surprising feats including becoming a pilot herself. Life isn’t always easy with the brooding self-centered, sometimes manipulative man she married. Early on she is awakened to the fact that Charles has certain expectations and, following suit of young impressionistic women of that age, she does everything she can to please him and measure up to the high standards he’s set.

Throughout their marriage, Charles remains a driving force, getting her to do things she never would have done without his insistent drive to make her what he wanted her to be. Charles is a huge presence in the book, which is fitting; he was the presence in Anne’s life.

Charles is deified by the world and Anne is thrown into a whirlwind and constantly hounded by the press and “fans”. This star power makes her feel privileged that he chose her over all others. She’s self-deprecating and she excuses his bad behaviors and controlling ways because of fleeting moments when he acts like the adoring man the public is so taken with. This makes her come across as weak, but if we keep in mind the time period, a wife didn’t question her husband like we do today; it’s easier to understand her behavior.

Anne mirrors many women’s lives, those who marry and find themselves in their husband’s shadows, behind the scenes, swept along with time. She questions whether she’s even gotten the chance to decide for herself who she wants to be or what she wants to become. She freely admits that she allowed Charles to shape her in this way.

Their marriage is marred by an inconceivable sadness which changes both of them; the loss of their first-born son. Anne is guilt ridden over having been away from him during much of his short life. Her grief lasts the rest of her life and remains a constant cloud of contention over their marriage.

The book continues as Anne regretfully helps her husband in his stand against war with Germany, as she raises her children practically on her own, as she finds herself alone finally becomes enabled to live her own life on her terms, at least in part.

I found Anne’s life to quite privileged and extraordinary. The author does a wonderful job telling it. She does what she sets out to do; her historical fiction inspires us to dig deeper into the Lindbergh’s story and into this time in history.

If you liked The Paris Wife, you will LOVE The Aviator’s Wife.

View this book on Goodreads.
View this book on Amazon.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.

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