The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Fiction – Historical
2013 Random House Audio
Reader: Lorna Raver
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
From the author’s website:
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 celebrated 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.
I believe I may have been a fighter pilot in another life. I’ve always been fascinated with jets and especially marveled at their amazing speed when I lived in Southern California. We were often treated to flybys when we lived in Tierrasanta, which is southeast of Miramar Air Station (formerly known as “Fightertown USA”). While most of my girlfriends were drooling over Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in the infamous volleyball scene in Top Gun, I was getting my thrills watching the mock dogfights with F14s, flown by Maverick (Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards).
I was also a huge fan of the Blue Angels, attending their air shows at Miramar, but also enjoying their practice runs as they prepared for their shows, flying low over University Towne Centre when I worked for a biotech company in the area. I never grew tired of watching those amazing jets as they flew overhead, practicing their formations, startling as the roar of the jets approached.
The irony, though, is that I am actually afraid of flying. But, apparently, I’m in the minority, at least in my family. You see, I come from a long line of pilots. My great Uncle Kris flew in the Air Force (retired as a General), as well as for Pan American Airlines. My great Uncle Ed (he and Uncle Kris were married to my grandmother’s sisters) flew in the Army Air Corps during WWII and the Korean War and was also a pilot for Pan Am. Both of Uncle Kris’ sons flew; Kraig was a Navy pilot, flying off aircraft carriers and Kris was an Army helicopter pilot.
Nate and Mardi Searles
My grandfather was also a pilot. He started out flying biplanes in the Army Air Corps and flew for Pan Am, flying to South America doing mapping and also carrying passengers. He flew the Clipper ships to Hawaii and wound up flying 707s, all for Pan Am. It was when he was with Pan Am that he met Charles Lindbergh. My grandparents always had big Christmas parties and Lindbergh was invited to come to their home in Woodside, California in 1947. My mom, who was 14 years old, got his autograph, which I now have framed and hanging in my house.
So, that was a very long-winded way of telling you that I’ve always been fascinated with flying in general and with the Lindberghs in particular. I tried to read Bring Me a Unicorn: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1922-1928 many years ago, but couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I didn’t abandon hope, though, and later went on to listen to her classic memoir, Gift from the Sea, which I thought was marvelous. When Melanie Benjamin’s historical novel, The Aviator’s Wife, was released, I knew I’d have to give it a try. I listened to the audio and thought it was exceptionally good. Yet, as I became completely immersed in Anne’s world, I grew to dislike her husband more with each passing chapter. Some may argue that he was a product of the times, but I say he was a complete cad! There’s a part of me that’s almost embarrassed to have his framed autograph hanging in my home, but in spite of his seemingly fascist political views and numerous infidelities, one can’t argue that he wasn’t a genuine aviation hero. But it was Anne’s story that appealed to me and I look forward to a second reading of Gift from the Sea. I’m also curious about their children, especially daughter Reeve, and have her memoirs, Under a Wing and Forward from Here, in my stacks, which I hope to get to later this fall. I’m not sure, but I may eventually try Scott Berg’s Lindbergh, although it’s not high on my list.
Charles and Anne Lindbergh
Anne and baby Charles
Final Thoughts: There are so many new historical novels focusing on the wives and lovers of famous men and I was a bit skeptical about The Aviator's Wife, having had a slightly disappointing experience with The Paris Wife. I was hesitant about reading The Aviator’s Wife, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s an excellent novel and audio book! I was familiar with the bits and pieces of trivia/gossip centered on this famous family, but Benjamin brought their stories to life and I learned a great deal, inspiring me to read even more about their lives. I wish I belonged to a book club. This would make an excellent choice for a lively discussion! Highly recommend!
Audio Notes: Lorna Raver’s performance is exceptional and I look forward to listening to more books read by her. As a matter of fact, the next book on my Nano was Calling Me Home, read by Lorna Raver. What a lovely surprise!