Monday, July 8, 2013
"The Aviator's Wife", by Melanie Benjamin
The first person narrative captures remarkably Anne’s life: a deeply intelligent, courageous and resilient woman who was too often overshadowed by the dominant personality of her husband. While the story is of a marriage it is primarily the story of a pioneering aviatrix: the first American woman to earn a glider pilot’s license, a fearless navigator and one of the first licensed radio operators who became her famous husband co-pilot.
We have of course the familiar and tragic side that everyone knows. In details we see how along with her husband they were continually hounded by the press and needed to wear disguises in order to go out in public. How Anne grieved over the loss of her firstborn in private because her husband forbade her to do so in public. Never contradicting him and tried to justify his isolationist leanings prior to WW11 and build an entire life for herself and her children when Charles all but abandoned them in his increasing unrest after the conflict ended. She then learned to talk back and to tell her own story famously in “Gift from the Sea”. Anne also had a surprising adulterous affair in middle age, refused to be buried next to her husband, this national hero who had three secret families including seven additional children. Of course I am only mentioning a few of the events mentioned in the novel.
On one side, “The Aviator’s Wife” is a well-crafted historical fiction that vividly brings to life people and events from the past in a narrative that is highly emotional and very passionate. The author has produced an exquisite work of sympathy towards Anne in her long and difficult journey in life. This is a captivating tale of love and hate, admiration and resentment that also maintains interest and even suspense throughout. On the other side, Anne is a frustrating protagonist and a weak character, too much of a wet noodle but again this was another era where most women were expected to be submissive. The melancholy style in which the novel is written became annoying in the long run…way too mushy for my taste…..But having said this, it was a nice perspective of Anne Lindbergh and well worth reading.