“The Aviator’s Wife,” by Melanie Benjamin, Random House, e-book, 416 pages.
When a young man performed his solo, nonstop flight to Paris, France in 1927, the world went crazy.
Annie Morrow, the shy second daughter of the U.S., ambassador to Mexico, was a college senior who wanted to be a writer.
She saw herself less attractive than her vibrant, older sister. But Charles Lindbergh was more attracted to Ann. He recognized a fellow adventurer.
Charles Lindbergh took Anne on her first flight and she fell in love with Charles and with flying. Her own achievements — becoming a female glider pilot and an author — were overshadowed by her husband.
After rearing five children and providing a stable home for her husband to recuperate from his strenuous life as a celebrity, she saw herself as fading into the background.
Melanie Benjamin shares with us the time period invoked by historical research through the marriage of two strong-willed characters.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a passively tragic figure in her devotion to her famous husband. At a time when wives accepted their place as totally devoted to their husband’s career, characteristic of their generation, Anne longs to achieve a life of her own.
She is loyal to Charles to a fault, but he does nothing to deserve her loyalty. We yearn for her to break out of her shadow life. It is not easy for us to put ourselves into Anne’s time and place.
We find ourselves liking Charles despite being disappointed in this hero. Younger women comment that they’d never tolerate a man like Charles, but older readers know how five children and the love of family and can skewer our ideology and values.
“The Aviator’s Wife” is a novel that inspires passionate, but conflicting emotions. She actually lives her faithful, but confusing life, by looking with her heart. Growing up in a family that moved often, she is determined to give her family a stable home life.
When Anne first met Charles, she asked, “Has there ever been a hero like him, in all of history?” After sharing a long life with him, she recognized that he had feet of clay. As she flies with Charles to Hawaii for his last days on Earth, secrets emerge to haunt her.
We gain insight into how debilitating the life of a celebrity can be. The scrutiny of the press created their lives as lived under a microscope. Charles’ determination to live a private life costs Charles and Anne much peace of mind.
They were denied the rights others have to go and do whatever they desired. No doubt, the kidnapping and death of their first child was the price of celebrity.
The novel’s conclusion leaves the reader with insight that Anne is the real hero.