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Saturday, February 22, 2014

AVIATOR'S WIFE – Melanie Benjamin

First of all I want to complain about the cover of the edition I had. It is always aggravating when a publisher doesn't take pains to make sure the cover art rings true. The woman on the cover seems not in the least bit to portray Anne Morrow Lindbergh. While being essentially about Anne we do look at Charles Lindbergh and from reading about Benjamin's research and other articles about him I am suspecting that this is a pretty accurate look at this American icon and his family. He does not come across as very likeable. Of course this is historic fiction so possible he wasn't as manipulative as it seemed here.

Anne Morrow was a smart, motivated, kind, and trusting woman. She was the product of a wealthy family having all the perks of good education, prestige, and opportunity. However, she was very much a product of her time (1920s America) and as did most young society girls she seemed to drift along into what was expected for young girls. She allowed herself to be “chosen” to be a wife by an American hero. Little thought was given to love or whether or not they would be good companions or even had anything in common. Charles was looking for a partner of good breeding and social standing, and one for whom he could rely on for intelligence and a sense of adventure.
It is easy to like Anne in this book and to at some level to admire her stamina, her willingness to support her spouse, and her quest for excitement. But sometimes her need to please and her desire to never disappoint grated on my nerves. Anne allowed Charles to be a bully and a tyrant in the home for which she could never seem to feel good about nor to stand up against. She always wanted to be stronger and a better mother but always capitulated to Charles wishes. It wasn't that he had no feelings, but his childhood had been so dysfunctional that I believe his perspective on good parenting was very warped. The kidnapping and murder of their first child was very hard to read about and very hard not to not hate Charles with his insistence on stoicism and keeping the grief at bay.

In either high school or college after reading about Lindbergh's heroics, it was at some point mentioned that he had been a Nazi sympathizer. Reading about how that transpired in this book made more sense to me. I was glad to discover Anne's inner strength when she came into her own through her writing. Now I want to scour this house to find my old copy of A Gift from the Sea (which I know is here somewhere) so I can read it again since I know a bit more about the author. 
It is sometimes hard for a person of the 21st century to understand the hows and whys of lives lived in a time and culture which we don't understand and so I like it when things evolve in a book in a way to make me feel and think as the main protagonist.

I was as shocked as she was to find out his darkest secrets and to be amazed at how he could publicly be so judgmental towards other men and people who he considered to have loose morals then..... well, we don't want to spoil the ending now do we?

Anne Morrow Lindbergh does not come across as good or bad, as a saint or a terrible sinner, just as an interesting person, a product of her times, but a human of basically good character with flaws. Overall a great beach read or for a rainy afternoon and it doesn't take long to read.

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