“The Aviator’s Wife,” by Melanie Benjamin, is an historical novel based on the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
In an interview with the Atlanta ArtsATL, the author explained that there were huge gaps in people’s knowledge of the Lindberghs, especially Anne’s marriage, public experiences and the tragedies in her married life to Charles Lindbergh. This novel acknowledges the known facts and, although based on a real person, is still fiction.
Ms. Benjamin has created an Anne who is trapped in the context of her times and writes about the woman behind the legend. The author incorporates many historical elements into the story with cameos by other famous historical figures and all the places the Lindberghs called home. She provides a little guide at the back of the book that outlines important departures from historical record for those readers who are interested.
The story is told in the first person through Anne’s eyes. It is about a life that was kept very private and about the pressures of fame and celebrity Anne and Charles faced differently – each creating their public image and hiding their private truths.
Anne was 21 when she met Charles. She was used to moving in entitled circles: her father was the ambassador to Mexico City, yet she was overwhelmed by Charles’ confidence.
His strength made her feel she could break free of her old life and do something meaningful. They married in 1929; the narrative immerses the reader in a story of a marriage far different than the one the public knew.
Anne learned to fly and navigate and became the first American woman to earn a first-class glider pilot’s license. At the beginning of their marriage their life consisted of flights all over the world and Anne became a pilot and navigator. When, in 1932, the couple’s first child was kidnapped from his nursery, the press became relentless and the couple took refuge in Europe.
Charles Lindbergh in this story is domineering, dictatorial and often imposed strict requirements and standards upon Anne and their five children. In these pages, Charles appears aloof from his family. He endorses Nazi Germany, Anne supports him (naively, she says later). The author writes clearly about the impact of this on this very private family.
In private, Anne starts finding her own voice. Nonetheless, she is often admired for her husband’s accomplishments rather than her formidable accomplishments as an award-winning author of poetry and non-fiction.
Melanie Benjamin writes convincingly about the struggle of an extraordinary woman seeking her identity and the balance of the demands of being a wife, a mother, an artist and a writer.