The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin


Aviator's Wife

I read the excerpt of the first chapter in an issue of Good Housekeeping and love it. It was a typical love story of a ‘prince’ and a common girl. I had to wait patiently for a few months for the book to arrive at my local library but it was worth the wait.

The Aviator’s Wife is a fictional biography of Anne Marrow, who was the wife of Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from America to Paris. Fictional biographies are getting more popular, as they combine fictional emotions of the protagonist amidst historical facts and background.

This book chronicles Charles and Anne Lindbergh’s lives starting from when they met in 1927 until his death in 1974.

Anne Marrow was the second daughter of US Ambassador to Mexico. As a middle child, she was often hidden behind her brother Dwight, the heir, her pretty, blond and flamboyant eldest sister Elisabeth, and the pet of the family, youngest sister Con.

Charles had just made his landmark flight and was a celebrity, a hero to many Americans when he was invited to Mexico and was guest of the Marrows. Like many, Anne worshipped him and was confused, yet awed by his attention and subsequent marriage proposal. It was a delight reading about their first meeting, both shy and awkward around each other.

Charles taught Anne to fly and they flew all over the world. They were a celebrity couple and was constantly followed by paparazzi. She was his crew and was expected to be physically and mentally strong.

Their bliss was interrupted when their first-born, Charlie, was abducted and murdered. The mother’s anguish of losing her child is vividly described in the book. Yet she was not allowed to grieve in public.

Their relationship was never on equal footing and reminded me of my friends’ broken marriage. The man starts the relationship as the leader and the wife is the meek follower, never expected to have her opinion or ideas, and is expected to agree with the husband, even if they did not share the same political belief, as was the case between Charles and Anne: ‘I couldn’t recognize my own words, because I was still so often afraid in my life. Afraid to anger my husband. Afraid to disappoint him. Afraid to recognize that he had disappointed me.

The couple went on to have five other children but he was never around, often flying off to some other countries and expecting her to be waiting at home whenever he chose to come home.

So although they were the perfect couple in public, they were leading separate lives. She had an affair with their family doctor, while he went on to have three secret families and seven other children.

At the end, she resented him for how she became, her personal growth stunted so that his could flourish at her expense.

Being a non-American, I did not really pay much attention to this couple, or Charles Lindberg, for that matter although in the book, he was said to be featured in many school history textbook. The historical facts did not really matter to me. The author certainly brought alive the girl who married her prince but has her life dashed. (Sounds like Princess Diana, right?)

Moral of the story: marrying a prince does not guarantee happily ever after.

For another similar fictional biography, read my review on a fictional biography of Hadley Richardson, the first of four wives of writer Ernest Hemingway. https://vickychong.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/the-paris-wife-by-paula-mclain/.

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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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