The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
I’m always up for an interesting historical fiction novel- it feels like a history lesson from a good storyteller. I also enjoy fictionalized biography; it’s getting a chance to know a person in history in a way you never thought possible. The Aviator’s Wife is an interesting look at a wife and woman whose accomplishments and life are overshadowed by her famous husband.
The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin, is based on the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. As a work of history, the story shines, shedding light on Charles Lindbergh’s wife and her own accomplishments as well. The story depicts the couple from the time they met in 1927 until the death of Charles in 1974. The book excels at highlighting the many events in the couples’ life and marriage.
When college student Anne Morrow meets Charles Lindbergh at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico where her father is the United States Ambassador, she is immediately overwhelmed by meeting a national hero. This hero worship never fades from their relationship or marriage, effecting choices that Anne makes throughout her life. Charles, whom she finds very overly tough and cold, has an overt influence on decisions such as leaving her young children behind to travel, allowing Charles to make all decisions regarding the raising of their children and accepting Charles’ decision to never discuss the kidnapping and death of their firstborn son, Charles Jr.
In what may be a conscious writing decision by Benjamin, it often feels that Anne exists only in the shadow of her more famous husband; that Anne herself feels like a supporting character in the life of Charles Lindbergh rather than her own person. But as Anne matures and grows away from Charles, she begins to take responsibility for her life and actions, and only then does the reader feel like she is a fully realized character.
The novel hits much more than it misses, leaving the reader with an insight into the struggles Anne Morrow Lindbergh faced in her life. Benjamin shines when depicting the joy and accomplishments in Anne’s life; her thrill at being the “crew” for Charles, her satisfaction and love for her children and her happiness embracing life on her own in the city.
Overall, I would recommend this book to readers of historical fiction who are interested in early aviation, life in the public eye, or the wives of famous men. An eclectic recommendation, to be sure, but Anne Morrow Lindbergh led a varied and interesting life many readers will enjoy learning more about in The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.
I enjoyed the book and would recommend picking it up at the library or on sale the next time you’re thinking of a good historical fiction novel. Enjoy readers and let me know what YOU think!