Wednesday Wisdom from The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Wednesday, December 16, 2020



My Mommy has been contemplating about how to handle The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. What an absolutely brilliant book. She spend more than 2 weeks reading this one, because she was constantly Googling all the facts. What a wonderful history lesson. 

"That is what historical fiction does best. It leaves the reader with the desire to know more."

Of course we know who Charles Lindbergh was and I guess somewhere we did realize that he had to be married. But just like so many other "famous heroes", their wives were left in shadows.  How marvelous to have discovered that for a change, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wasn't shuffed into a corner, but rather that my Mommy didn't know her aviation history all that well. Okay, she actually knows nothing about aviation. She does know a great deal more now, thanks to this marvelous book. 

When Anne Morrow, a shy college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, 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. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States. But despite this and other major achievements, she 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.


So why are we featuring this book under Wednesday Wisdom and not writing a review? Because there is no use in re-inventing the wheel or the airplane propeller. It's all right there on Google. But what is not right there on Google, is Melanie Benjamin's remarkable writing style and her amazing character building. It really felt as if this was a biography straight from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's pen and not a work of fiction. 

My Mommy was making notes and writing down quotes like she's trying to copy the whole book. She came to realize that some of those quotes captures the essence of this book so much better than any review she tries to write will ever do. Seeing that The Lindbergh's were such public figures (not always by choice and it came with a very heavy price), it was easy to find pictures and just add the quotes to the picture. Amazing what you can do with a phone these days. 


The book opens with The Lindbergh's travelling to Hawaii in 1974 where Charles Lindbergh would spend his last days. I'm not giving away anymore spoilers, but this quote just proofs that no matter what he's done, or how he has treated Anne throughout their marriage, she knew him better than any other living creature. He didn't have a cat. I can't see him as a cat person. 


Anne was an avid reader and we have to hang our heads in shame to say that we didn't know she was an acclaimed author as well. My Mommy haven't read anything published by her, but I can guarantee that will soon change.


If you type in 'Charles Lindbergh' on Google, Google will fill it in with the word - 'kidnapping' I remember there was mentioning of the Lindbergh Kidnapping in Along came a spider by James Patterson, but I never really knew all the details around it. And of course none of us can grasp the devastating effect it had on both Anne and Charles, the nation's hero who always appeared as cool as a cucumber. It is still known as the crime of the century and it was the FBI Lab's first major case. Shocking events and it left my Mommy heartbroken. 


It's been said over and over that one is not suppose to outlive your children. How do you ever outlive, and not only exist, after the death of a baby? While reading about the kidnapping of Charles Jnr, my Mommy thought that some events are very familiar. As she is a huge Agatha Christie fan, it didn't take long for her to make the connection between the Lindbergh Kidnapping and  the kidnapping of a baby girl, Daisy Armstrong, in Murder on the Orient Express. Yes, Agatha Christie did base her 1934 novel on the events that happened a mere 2 years earlier. Of course we did watch Murder on the Orient Express on Sunday and cried even harder than ever before. 


This book do not deal all that much around the kidnapping and the trial, but more about Anne's heartache and how the events and the aftermath played a significant role in the years to come. Of course it did. But it also didn't hinder Anne to become a wonderful mother and homemaker to her four children who were born after the death of little Charlie. 



This wasn't a light or an easy read, but it sure is worth the read. We loved reading about a woman who struggled to find her own voice from under the massive shadow her husband threw over her (in more ways than one). I don't really care if this was fiction and thus somewhere and somewhat removed from the truth. Truth might be stranger than fiction, but most of the time - fiction just leaves so much more room for the imagination. I would like to imagine that Charles really did care about Anne deeply, even though he behaved like a dog every now and then. I also like to imagine that Anne really did live her later years filled with peace and happiness, basked in the knowledge that she accomplished so much more than what is written in our history books. 

Have you read The Aviator's Wife? My Mommy is not doing her best reads for 2020 yet, she still has a couple of books that she want to squeeze in. But this one will sure make our top 10 list for books read this year.

Lots of Love,

Elza 

18 comments

  1. I loved Gift From the Sea so I was eager to read this. It’s always sad to read about the hardships of well known people when we might have a different image of them.

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    1. I want to pop in at the second hand bookshop tomorrow and see if I might strike it lucky and maybe get a copy.

      I know, their story is actually so tragic. But I do admire Anne for how she soared above it as much as humanly possible.

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  2. Beautifully said. I didn't know much about the Lindberghs either before reading it. I read Gift from the Sea shortly afterward. It's a book that should be read slowly and savored, which is not something I'm particularly good at. I liked it but I know I would have enjoyed it more if I had taken my time.

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    1. Hi Jen,

      I am going to see if I can get a copy of it (gift from the sea) somewhere. Will pop in at the second hand bookshop over the weekend.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. I would love to read this. I would love to know more about Anne. Beautiful review. I'll definitely add this to my list.

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    1. Thanks Heather! It is a beautiful book. I am definitely planning on reading more books by Melanie Benjamin.
      This isn't exactly lite reading, but definitely worth it.

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  4. I agree with your mom on quotes capturing the essence of the book! I often start from quotes to build my own reviews.

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    1. I always use quotes from books, just love it. I used to have little books that I would write in all my favorite quotes from books in. But now with technology and especially Goodreads, I don't use it as much anymore.
      I appreciate your visit!

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  5. I am so glad that you enjoyed this so much. I did know that Anne was an author, but I did not know that she was an aviator herself. Our book group just discussed a historical fiction novel that had as main character a woman who was not allowed, because of the time, to fulfill her deepest dreams, and we had a good sharing experience about times we women were not allowed to do this in our own time. I cannot even imagine loss of a child, but I know that my grandma, who lived to be 98, was devastated when her two sons died in their seventies, before her.

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    1. Hi Debbie, it really is shocking to think that women were regarded as so little and it was the actual norm. More shock is that it still happens.
      In my own Afrikaans culture, there are still a group (thankfully in the minority by now), who still don't consider a woman's achievement as anything worth mentioning.
      Aah, your poor grandma.... I can just imagine.

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  6. I knew about the Lindbergh child kidnapping, so I guessed he must have been married, but didn't know a thing about his wife and that she was a writer (*hangs head in shame*). This book cover had caught my eye last time you showed it, but now I need to read more too. Thanks so much for sharing !

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    1. Hi IzaBzh, I'm sure you will like it. But leave it for the new year.
      I love historical fiction that teaches me things I don't know or didn't learn in my history textbooks.

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  7. Thanks for your awesome post o this book.
    I also tend to double check things when I read. Right now I'm reading a great scifi novel by Stephen Baxter, Flood. There were a few things that sounded really over the top, but I checked, and actually these are real scientific data!! I can't tell you what, because the major one is at the heart of the plot, lol

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    1. Hi Emma! Thanks for the shout, I will have to check The Flood out!
      I love books that are in fine Googlable. They tend to be such great discussion starters as well!

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  8. This sounds absolutely fascinating, even with the sadness. I love historical fiction because of the way it makes you think and the fact that you are eager for more detail even after you finish reading. Always the sign of a good read.
    Lynn :D

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    1. I agree completely Lynn. This wasn't an easy read at all, but gosh it was fascinating!

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  9. I've read two other books by Melanie Benjamin and absolutely adored them so I need to read this one! I only know a little about Anne Morrow but I do know quite a bit about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping (Murder on the Orient Express kicked off that fall down the rabbit hole!). I definitely don't see Lindbergh having a cat either.

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    1. (snickering) No, not at all. I have already listed The Swans of 5th Avenue on my reading list for next year. I think Melanie Benjamin is an excellent author.

      I was quite shocked when I read about the kidnapping and yes, made the connection immediately with Murder on the Orient Express. I think Agatha Christie captured it perfectly. It's always been one of my all-time favorites, but after this, Murder on the Orient Express will sure be my favorite Agatha Christie for all eternity.

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