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Literary Friday: The Aviator's Wife

Friday, September 13, 2013

This week I read The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin.  It is one of our book club selections, and I want to thank Connie for sending me a copy. Thanks, Sweetie!

Young and Relentless

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The Aviator's Wife is a very well-written, first-person narrative about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her bittersweet marriage to The Lone Eagle, Charles A. Lindbergh.  I was dreading reading about the kidnapping and murder of their first child because I can't imagine anything more tragic and devastating. The kidnapping was a big part of the book (many pages were devoted to its retelling), and Benjamin did an admirable job recounting the timeline of events as well as depicting what was probably Anne's thoughts, fears, and grief during this horrible time during their marriage.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was very accomplished as an academic and an aviatrix.  She was the first American woman to earn a gliding license, and she served as her husband's navigator for most of his pre-WW II flights.

The Lindberghs during the Arctic Air Flight Survey of 1933
They flew a modified Lockheed Sirius during this mission.

Charles and Anne had many dates in the air.

Anne's father, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, introduced Anne and Charles during Christmas Break, 1927.  Anne was finishing her last year at Smith College when she and her siblings traveled by train to Mexico to spend the holiday with their parents and younger sister.  Ambassador Morrow was also Lindbergh's financial planner: Morrow served on J.P.Morgan's board. Charles took Anne flying, and he was shocked that she wasn't ill or nauseous.  She loved it, and she took her first solo flight in 1929.
I like how Benjamin portrays Anne as searching for her hero during her early years, and how she certainly got more than she bargained for in Charles Lindbergh.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is made by Anne's mother on her deathbed after Anne calls her mother her hero for reinventing herself and accomplishing so much after Senator Morrow's death:

"You need to....stop looking for heroes, Anne.  Only the weak need heroes....and heroes need.....those around them to remain weak.  You're not.....weak." (pp. 341 - 342)

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was not weak.  She was a wife, a mom, a tragedy, a pilot, a scholar, and a writer.  In the book, Anne contemplates how women are always called upon by others in ways that most men simply never are. This strength that women exhibit through different stages in life becomes the springboard for Anne's bestselling book, Gift From the Sea.  I studied this book in a couple of Women's Study Classes in college, along with A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.  In The Aviator's Wife, a haughty and condescending Amelia Earhart asks Anne if she's read A Room of One's Own.  Charles becomes agitated when Anne doesn't defend herself as a pilot and navigator.  I wonder if there was a similar exchange in real life, or if Benjamin took artistic license with their meeting.  Ironically, Lindbergh does build Anne a cottage on their property to use as a writing studio.

I still find this book relevant today as women continue struggling to find balance between responsibilities and personal  growth.

I thought that the most difficult passages of the book would be about the kidnapping, but I found the praise of Hitler and his Democratic Socialist Party to be the most awful.  Lindbergh's fawning over the Third Reich was disturbing at best, and even more depressing considering how the Guggenheims had been such amazingly kind and generous friends to the Lindberghs.

One of my favorite passages in the book is when Lindbergh is invited to view the launching of the Apollo XI flight.  The younger Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong are in awe of Lindbergh and seem grateful for his well wishes before their famous flight.  I did read some of NASA's accounts of that day online after completing the novel.  I was on a plane flying home from Jamaica the day that the astronauts landed on the moon July 20, 1969.  I remember the pilot playing President Nixon's congratulatory call over the plane's PA system.  I was four years old.

I highly recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys extremely well-written and researched historical fiction, the history of flight, history of World War II, and feminist literature.
What have you been reading lately?  Please share!

Until next time...

Happy Reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I would love to read these books. What an interesting part of history. I need to update my Goodreads info! lol I'm reading another mystery by Laurie King. She's my new favorite author! Sweet hugs!

  2. I had intended to read this book as I have every book written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, her journals falling apart with being reread so many times over the years. When I went to buy it on Amazon the reviews seemed to fall into 2 camps, those who had never read her journals loved the book while those who loved her journals were disappointed in the book. So I skipped it but I hope that anyone who isn't familiar with her work will read this as I believe she was one of the most extraordinary women of my lifetime. Anyone interested in her life, please also read her daughter Reeve's books about her mother too. She truly writes from a compassionate heart though a realistic one.

    Ricki Jill, the very part of the Lindbergh's life that you found disturbing, the Hitler years, was and always will be profoundly disturbing to their daughter also and you can feel her anguish as she writes about it. And of course the later years when the truth came out about his secret wives in Europe was compellingly handled by Reeve Lindbergh in a mature outlook as she sought to face this part of her father's life.

    One of the most fascinating women ever, and as you said such a strong one, but then she came from a mother and aunts and sisters who were strong women. I'm glad you reviewed this. I may have to break down and see how I like it!

  3. i just started the book Brooklyn Love by yael Levy

  4. Sounds as though it is a very good read! Thanks for the info!!

  5. Aviatrixes rock, and I had no idea that Anne Lindbergh got her gliding license! (which is more difficult than a motored plane- requires a lot of mental calculation, awareness, and a "feel" for brother and his fiance are both glider pilots). It's interesting to me that I hear more about Amelia than Anne, and yet clearly Anne was very accomplished and strong. I'm putting this one on the list....thanks!

  6. Sounds an interesting read, I nearly forgot Literary Friday yet again, sorry. I will get back into more regular posting I promise.

  7. I loved that book, but it really opened my eyes up about her husband. I always thought he was Mr. Perfect. Why I don't know. I would reccomend that book to everyone.

  8. Great review. I will have to check it out. xo Laura

  9. I loved this book. I had similar thoughts as you. I have been waiting for you to post about it, so I can follow. You do such a better job than I do. Great Job Ricki Jill with the review!

  10. I would read both those books, Ricki Jill. They sound wonderful. I haven't had much time to read lately but I got fascinated by my "car book" know- I always have one I keep just for the car. Anyway, it is called The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane and is based on the witch trials in Salem and woven between modern times and that time. I have a couple to pack away with me when I take a short trip next week- xo Diana

  11. Fantastic review! Anne sounds like an amazing woman.

  12. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book! I did too.

  13. Charles Lindbergh landed in our town in 1917 and I have an original photo of him...and I am such a huge fan of Anne...I read Gifts from the Sea every single year!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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