The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Before reading The Aviator’s Wife, I knew three things about Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh–he was a famous aviator, she wrote Gift from the Sea, and their first son was the victim of a famous kidnapping. I certainly know more now, but I am less sure of what I think about aviation’s first couple.
The novel is told through Anne’s voice in alternating chapters spanning 1927 to 1974. It was an interesting historical time and I believe the author has covered it well.
Although I am not an avid flyer, I found the historical aspect of the early days of aviation to be very intriguing, and the role Charles played to be a fascinating one. I was surprised to learn Anne was a pioneering aviatrix, and as a couple they accomplished many historical firsts. Charles and Anne’s fame contributed to the odd life they led and added an unnecessary burden to their already complex relationship.
At their initial meeting, Anne Morrow was still in college and visiting her family in Mexico where her father was the Ambassador. Colonel Lindbergh had just completed his solo flight across the Atlantic, and was a guest of the Morrow family. The subsequent marriage of Charles and Anne was complicated and those expecting a fairytale romance will be disappointed.
Charles was what I would describe as brilliant when it comes to his interests, particularly in theory and with the inanimate. He was definitely respected by many outside his family and worshipped by the media. In practice, I found him extremely lacking as a father and as a husband he had trouble balancing the notion of society’s role for a wife with wanting Anne to be independent.
Anne became a seemingly terrific mother. I am sure losing her first son coupled with her husband’s extended absences and his lack of parental nurturing made her even more devoted to her five children. She did eventually find her voice and became a much respected author.
I was not enamored with how Charles treated others, his anti-Semitism leanings, his apparent fondness for pre-war Hitler, or his secret German families. Anne’s willingness to go along with whatever Charles believed, compromising her own principles, and accepting his long absences while she raised their children was hard to wrap my head around. Plus, her infidelity was also an issue.
This novel will spark interesting conversation for readers who don’t know as much about this couple as they think they do.
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