I came to The Aviator’s Wife, the story of Anne Morrow, Charles Lindbergh’s wife by Melanie Benjamin after reading The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb and Alice I Have Been by this same author. All are fictionalised accounts of real people.
The Aviator’s Wife is narrated by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was a shy diplomat’s daughter when she met Charles Lindbergh. He had recently completed the world’s first transatlantic flight, travelling from New York to Paris in a single-engine monoplane, the Spirit of St Louis. From that moment on he was a hero, targeted by the press and unable to be anonymous or left alone anywhere except in the air.
Anne and Charles married, despite this story being unclear about whether or not they were ever in love with each other. Anne saw Charles as a hero and he saw her as good breeding material, unaware that her brother had mental health issues and that her sister was a lesbian. If he had known, it seems likely he would not have married Anne.
Anne learned to fly and became the first American woman to fly a glider. She also learned to navigate and acted as crew for her husband on many of his flights, and in addition, wrote best-selling books about their travels. Later, she published poetry, letters and diaries, and inspirational writing, of which she is best known for Gift from the Sea, a book of musings.
Anne and Charles’ first child was kidnapped for ransom and sadly, later found murdered. Later they moved to Europe to avoid the media who continued to dog them wherever they went. They went on to have another six children together.
Charles seems to have been an unpleasant man and is portrayed as being pro-Hitler, an anti-Semite, arrogant, cold and unemotional, while Anne, despite her accomplishments, appeared to be submissive and, particularly in comparison with her husband, unimportant. The author almost glosses over Anne’s long affair with the Lindbergh family doctor. Charles’ affairs with at least three women, resulting in his fathering an additional seven children is never explained satisfactorily either. Perhaps there is no explanation for either…
The Aviator’s Wife should have been fascinating, but wasn’t. The bare facts of this story tell of extraordinary lives but the narrator’s passive voice left me feeling uninterested and uninspired. My lasting impression is that Charles was a difficult man and Anne a doormat and that each would have lived a happier life married to someone else.
I’ve been a bit hit and miss with Melanie Benjamin. While I enjoyed the story of the real Alice in Wonderland, I didn’t like Tom Thumb’s or Charles Lindbergh’s Missus at all. If I read anything else by this author, I’ll look for pure fiction rather than fictionalised accounts of real people’s lives.