Despite her own major achievements--she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States--Anne Morrow Lindbergh is viewed merely as Charles Lindbergh'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.
This engrossing novel by Melanie Benjamin is a historical novel about Ann Morrow, Smith graduate and the daughter of an Ambassador and a feminist, who became the aviator's wife when she married Charles Lindbergh. There are only hints in the novel about Anne's early life. The novel begins when she meets Lindbergh at the American embassy in Mexico City in 1927 and ends with his death in 1974. Her first twenty years and final 25 years as a widow are not within the scope of this book. Nor should it be. That story will be told at another time.
I felt as though I had crept into Anne's head and was really seeing the events through her eyes and understanding her joy, frustration, fear and anger. For there seems to be more more of the latter three as she adjusts to the role of the hero's wife even while she feels herself diminished and at the same time uplifted in her marriage. She knows that she has reached heights no woman ever dreamed of....a pilot's licence, solo flights in planes and gliders, stellar navigation knowledge, journey's to the far corners of the world. And life with the greatest hero of the twentieth century. A traditional upper class marriage certainly would have been easier. She would have had wealth; she had that from her father even if she not married. She would have had children, but her baby would not have been the victim of the crime of the century. She would have had the cultural society she craved instead of being isolated by fame and politics. The Anne in this novel is constantly questioning her decisions.
When Anne meets Lindbergh she is a brilliant and shy younger daughter. He senses that she would be the right wife, his co-pilot and crew when she does not get air sick and is exhilerated when he takes her up in his plane one early Sunday morning. There begins a strange noncourtship which ends in a proposal. He has found a willing acolyte and she is marrying a man who can make her tremble in the air and on the ground. The fact that the press keeps assuming that Lindbergh is courting Anne's beautiful, lively older sister illustrates how Anne can fade into the background. Charles sets the pattern for this marriage when on the first day of their honeymoon, he scolds her for oversleeping and tells her exactly what she will make him for breakfast while he works with his aviation charts. And so it goes. She has some of the greatest adventures but she is always the crew.
The tragic kidnapping and death of their first child further strains the marriage. Charles refuses to show emotion and becomes angry when she continues to mourn. He never mentions the baby's name and refers to his death as "the events of 1932." Anne must hide the box of memories from her husband. The rift is never healed, although they have five more children. Only later does Anne realize that Charles thought his "seed" too important to waste. And she realizes that he did believe in racial purity, was anti-Semitic, admired not just German technology but Hitler and all he stood for. Why did she agree to write an essay about how they both admired Nazi Germany, an essay so disturbing that her alma mater Smith wrote her a letter and asked that she stop referring to herself as a Smith graduate? For years she ponders this black deed and admits that she still believed in her husband the hero, even when she sees how it devastated her beloved mother and those she cared about.
Anne is a wonderful mother. She has to be. Lindbergh is an absent father, spending more and more time from the 1950's and until hs death on business ventures around the world. And, she discoveres, early in the novel, in fathering seven children with three German mistresses. The Lindbergh seed must not be wasted. (The novel is seamlessly told in a series of flashbacks.) It is Anne, isolated on a rural estate, who loves her children and they adore her even while they have to learn to be the children of the great hero and have to learn about the death of their older brother in a history book. Lindbergh forbad Anne to tell the children. On his brief visits home. usually unannounced, he regiments his children with endless lists of things they have to finish. Only when he disappears for the next months do they all relax and become a normal family again. And it the way that he affects her children that causes Anne to finally see the terribly flawed man she always knew was right in front of her.
So she becomes herself again, no longer just the aviator's wife. She is Anne the writer, Anne the mother, Anne the culture seeker, Anne the lover. She is Anne MORROW Lingbergh.
The novel. covering the above events with so many nuances and shades, is brilliant and beautiful. My review cannot do it justice. Go read this book!
Narrated from Ann Morrow Lindbergh's point of view, we learn her strength, her weakness (staying with a cad for so many years while he left his family alone, with no contact information for long, long periods of time), and the reader learns of the sharp, determined, egocentric, controlling, self centered hero, Charles Lindbergh.
While he roamed the world, admonishing her grief when their first born was kidnapped and killed, Ann stayed behind as five more children were born and raised by her.
She was a strong, intelligent woman who was the first female to obtain a pilot's license. Taught by Charles in a demanding fashion, she soon learned to navigate both with instruments, and by Polaris, the bright constant star.
Despite her growing anger and longing to claim her individuality, Charles remained her constant star throughout the many years of their marriage.
The mark of great historical fiction challenges the reader to learn more, to separate the facts from the fiction. Melanie Benjamin does an amazing job of this!
While the author writes of Ann's supreme anger, dismay of betrayal when, before Charles' death, she discovered there were three German mistresses with whom he sired a total of seven children, in fact, I researched to learn that it was their children, who when contacted by their half siblings, discovered their father's other lives, long after Ann's death.
Mainly, I was in awe of the author's ability to paint Ann's feelings of love and hate of the hero Charles Lindbergh. And, haven't we all felt that at times in our lives, ie the longing to be loved, the disappointment in ourselves when we know we have loved too much to receive so very little in return?
My overall feeling was that the story was powerful and revealing. However, I felt that Benjamin's writing was a bit lacking. It was too simply written . I expected much more from her. This book has been compared to The Paris Wife and Loving Frank. Both of those books were better written and far more interesting. I appreciated Anne's story but was unimpressed by Benjamin.
It is fascinating reading, if a little too introspective for my taste. Anne is portrayed as continually questioning her marriage, while still acquiescing to everything her husband asks of her. Understandable actions on Anne's part, given the times that she lived in. At times I wished the novel would deal more directly with the action of the characters lives, rather than simply reflecting events as Anne attempted to decipher their meaning.
This was an excellent telling of Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne. All I really knew about Charles was his flight across the Atlantic in 1927 and the kidnapping of their son in 1932. In this book Melanie tells us the story of Anne. A strong and courageous woman who loved her husband and stood in his shadow much of her life.
The author in the author's notes at the end of the book states "As a historical novelist, the most gratifying thing I hear is that the reader was inspired, after reading my work of fiction, to research these remarkable people's lives further." Melanie I am inspired to read more about both Charles and Anne and I thankyou for the chance to review your novel.
Anne's life was beautifully detailed by Ms. Benjamin in terms of Anne's feelings and personality especially during the kidnapping. The era was nicely portrayed as well. It covered how women from wealthy families went to prestigious schools and never used their education, but were expected to be the perfect wife and mother. Ms. Benjamin will definitely get you involved in the story through her outstanding, exceptional, in-depth writing style.
I enjoyed reading about the era and about Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh. I would not have wanted to live Anne's life, though...she had no life of her own per say. She had to follow Charles on his adventures, be his wife, be in the public eye, and heartbreakingly leave her children. Despite all of this, she willingly allowed him to control her and willingly backed him no matter what. Anne did come out of the shadows as she aged and was actually a very strong woman.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but don't think a man would enjoy it simply because of the domestic factors and the details of Anne Morrow's family and all of their lives. It is more geared toward women and the feelings and beliefs we as women share and that we like to know about other women's lives....especially famous ones. Anne, Charles, and the Morrow family led very interesting lives. I, as I am sure you will do, found myself looking up information on the life of the Morrows and Lindberghs just as the author said we would. :) ENJOY!!! 5/5
I won this book in a giveaway on LibraryThing with no compensation and simply a request for an honest review.
Benjamin certainly succeeded in making Anne Morrow Lindbergh a person in her own right; in bringing her out of the shadow of her famous husband, and out of the shadow of historical events.
This was an easy, quick, enjoyable read.
To be honest, there were a couple of disappointments.
The first was due to my own expectations. I had hoped for more focus on Anne's own adventures and travels.
Second, the growth of the character was exceptionally well-written, but, otherwise, the writing seemed a bit less than stellar. It wasn't bad, but just not outstanding.
Still, it was a pleasure to read, especially as the character grew.
attitude and her complete worships of Charles. I just wanted to shake her! As the story unfolded I was finally able to accept her as she was, in her time and space realizing that I, myself in my seventies, had exhibited some of her same characteristics at least related to how subservient I was in my relation with my husband- much like Ann. I, also, found my own way eventually. And I guess that is what much of this book is about, Ann finding herself finally.
The only thing I knew about the Lindberghs was his Paris flight and their child being kidnapped and killed so this was a real eye opener and I have to say I loved ths book in the end (although I still wanted to shake her and wished she had exposed Charles for the kind of man he really was).
I certainly would recommend this book to my reading friends who are interested I this kind of historical fiction.
Melanie Benjamin does an impressive job of creating this woman and the world she lived in for the reader. The Lindberghs fought off paparazzi throughout their married lives, and this book evokes vividly the scary aspects of living such a public life. At the same time, though, the intimate moments that Anne describes in the book are believable and provide insight into this marriage. I highly recommend this book and will seek out other books by this author.
Thanks so much to the ER program for providing this book.
A mark of a good novel might be that it sends the reader to seek out non-fiction books about the same subject and indeed, this book did just that. After perusing many real photos of Anne and her family members, the author, Melanie Benjamin, is to be complimented for her true, well-rounded descriptions. I found the history refreshing and the relationship fascinating as seen from the woman's point of view.
This book is not about Charles Lindberg although Anne Morrow's life would have never been the same if she hadn't married her hero. Anne grew up being her daddy's "good girl", eager to please and dependable to a fault. This causes her great anguish until she was finally able to emerge a truly confident woman who did not have to hide her feelings and thoughts.
Instead of book full of facts and dates like a regular biography, Melanie Benjamin wrote one based on her interpretation of Anne's emotional reaction to the important events in her life and what being married to Charles Lindberg must have been like. I love this form of biography. I felt the pain that Anne felt when people called her Mrs. Lindberg, although she was a Smith graduate, had a pilot's license, could do celestial navigation and had so many achievements like being the first woman to fly a glider.
Anne Morrow Lindberg's feelings of self-hatred were easily evident when she hid her true feeling when meeting the Gorings at the 1936 Summer Olympics and heard discussions about the purity of the Nordic Race. Her father was half Jewish so that made it even more painful.
Her pain was excruciating when her son was taken from her and the publicity surrounding the event was so heartbreaking that it hurt to read about it. She had joys in her life but the tragedies made them seem so rare and sparking like the dew on the grass. Before reading this book, I had previously read Anne Morrow's famous book, 'Gift from the Sea' and also book about Charles Lindberg (the title long forgotten. This book was different; it made me understand her life and the emotional torture that she went through.
I am very grateful that Melanie Benjamin wrote this book. I would recommend this book to all women and to men who want to know and understand women better. In fact, I think I even understand myself better after reading this book.
I received this Advance Reading Copy of `The Aviator's Wife" from the Amazon Vine Program and that in no way influenced my thoughts.
This was a great book to read and discover the real Lindbergh's away from the publicity and limelight. But really this book was about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She was the shy daughter of an ambassador who married Charles. I definitely saw a different side to this American hero. He was cold, emotionally unattached and frequently away from home. It seems he chose Anne as his wife because he believed they would create well bred children and because Anne was easy to manipulate and mold into the person he needed in his life at that time. I did not realize Anne was also a pilot, an author and that she accompanied her husband on so many world wife trips via plane. This book shows us what is may have been like for Anne to be married to such an icon and how she coped. Slowly, she begins to become her own person. It isn't until the end of her life that she may have realized all along that she was the strength in her marriage to Charles and not the other way around. Wonderful book on a a very interesting part of our history. I definitely recommend this!
Honestly, I knew nothing about the Lindberghs (I don't remember even learning about them in school!) so this story was pretty new to me. The way Benjamin shaped the characters had me interested from the very first page. To watch Anne change from shy graduate to blushing bride, to daring avaitrix and meek wife, and finally into her own woman, was a pleasure to read. I found myself constantly rooting for Anne, even when she was letting Charles push her around.
This story also gave me an idea of the impact that the media had back then on the Lindbergh's lives (probably an even more pressing presence than the media today) and I was horrified at some of the events the couple had to endure because of the media, especially the very public kidnapping of their first child. The fact that Anne came out of all that as as stronger person made me love her character even more.
I highly recommend this book and Benjamin's others.
While Charles Lindbergh was the ideal of courage who was capable of facing every challenge, the story reveals his failings as well as successes as it does also with Anne. The examination of the latter, however, brings the reader to a greater understanding of a character who is presented as one who goes far behind her insecurities and becomes a pillar of strength for her husband, for her family, and for herself.
This is a well written novel that keeps the reader involved and immersed in the story.
This book, "The Aviator's Wife" by Melanie Benjamin, is very similar as it is the imagined view of what Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life during her arduous marriage to the superhuman, Charles Lindbergh, might have been like. What is fiction and what is fact gets a bit muddled although Ms. Benjamin explains: “It’s the emotional truths that I imagine; the relationships, the reasons these historical figures do the things they do.” Not sure how they can be “emotional truths” when she is stating that those are the parts she has made up – they can’t be truths of any kind. Ms. Benjamin goes on to write: “I truly believe that the inner life can be explored only in novels, not histories – or even diaries and letters. For diaries and letters are self-censored even at the moment of writing them; it’s impossible to be absolutely honest with oneself”. While it is true that letters and diaries are self-censored they certainly can bring emotional understanding to a reader who comes to them educated from other biographical works.
Ms. Benjamin plots the story around a scene at the end of Charles’ life when Anne is give some letters from a nurse that reveal that Charles has had seven children with three European women during his marriage to Ann. This information did not come to light until more than 30 years after his death in 1974 and there is no evidence that Anne knew about them. But Ms. Benjamin states “I think she did know” and proceeds to include deathbed screaming and crying interspersed throughout the novel in flash forwards from the chronological story. She also creates a scene of their first meeting when Charles takes Anne flying in the middle of the night. Both of these scenes are extremely emotional….but they are fiction.
Personally, I have a problem with historical fiction. I’d rather read nonfiction and learn the facts; read works by that person if they exist to get the nuance; and imagine my own version of what their “real life” was like. So, I suggest that you read Anne Morrow Lindberg’s wonderful books from letters and diaries and some of her accounts of flying with Charles. She is an insightful and engaging writer and you will come to appreciate her difficult life. Her most popular book “Gift from the Sea” is a great gift for all of your female friends. I have read it every couple of years since my mother gave it to me. It has spoken to me as a young woman, a mother, a wife and now as a retiree. Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a wise woman. I do not think that the version of her presented in this book is the one that I would have written after reading her books and factual accounts of her life.
If you enjoy historical fiction, you might like this book. Just remember, it’s fiction.