The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

February 14, 2014

the aviators wife Plot summary (from the publisher): For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’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.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • The part about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was well done. That was my favorite section of the book by far, though Benjamin didn’t spend nearly enough time on it as I thought she would.
  • I enjoyed reading about Anne and Charles flying together. I knew nothing at all about Anne Morrow before reading this novel, and was surprised to learn that she became a pretty decent pilot under Charles’s tutelage.
  • The portrayal of Lindbergh as one of the first true “celebrities” in American culture was rather fascinating. I think he would be horrified to know what the paparazzi and tabloids are like now.

Disliked:

  • The author’s writing style got on my nerves quite a bit. I hated how she portrayed Morrow as having a school girl crush on Charles for most of their married life and getting weak-kneed at the mere thought of being with him even after 30 years together or whatever. Those passages made the book feel like a trashy romance novel and just weren’t to my liking at all.
  • It was a real struggle to get through this book, as many of the chapters were filled with repetitive scenes of Anne whiling away the time while Charles was on yet another solo journey. At times this novel was so dull that I put it away in favor of “Life of Samuel Johnson”, which is not exactly a gripping tale in its own right.
  • The author didn’t do Anne Morrow much justice in terms of characterization. Morrow comes off as naive, weak, and simpering for much of the book, which apparently wasn’t what the real Anne was like at all. She seemed so dependent and sycophantic that all Charles had to do was keep giving her diamond necklaces to get her to do what he wanted. I wish Benjamin had chosen to make Morrow stronger, smarter, and more resolute.
  • Anne’s reaction to learning about Charles’s various love affairs struck me as extremely hypocritical, given the fact that she had been shacking up with a mutual friend for years. Granted, much of her anger stemmed from the fact that Lindbergh had seven children out of wedlock, but that didn’t make her any less guilty in my eyes.

Rating:

It’s always hard to decide how to rate a work of historical fiction, especially when I don’t know much about the protagonists to begin with. So the only thing I can properly judge this book on is its entertainment value — and, unfortunately, The Aviator’s Wife just didn’t do much for me. The Anne Morrow in this book wasn’t someone I enjoyed spending time with and her mostly passive reactions to everything that went on around her made for some dull reading. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

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