NYR iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Catherine McKenzie

GET UPDATES FROM Catherine McKenzie
 

52 Books, 52 Weeks, Week 12: Taking Flight

Posted: 03/25/2013 9:23 am

So, week twelve already of my reading project -- it's spring, but it feels like winter -- and I'm reading Melanie Benjamin's The Aviator's Wife. I loved her first novel, Alice I Have Been, and saw that this, her third novel, has been on the bestseller list for weeks now so I'd though I'd give it a whirl. (For reasons that will become obvious in a minute, if it isn't already from the title, it is almost impossible to talk about this book without engaging in puns, intended or otherwise.)

Anywho, The Aviator's Wife is about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's wife. A fictional account of her life, it covers the period from when Anne first met Charles, in Mexico of all places, where Anne's father was serving as the U.S. ambassador, to Charles' death. Charles had already completed the first solo flight across the Atlantic that would make him so famous when they met, and Anne was shy and -- through Benjamin's perspective -- not very pretty (certainly less pretty than her more gregarious older sister). But it was Anne who drew Charles' attention, and it was Anne who became Charles' partner in crime in the aviation world for much of their marriage, and this despite having numerous children.

I knew little about the Lindberghs before I read this novel. Of course I had heard about the infamous kidnapping and murder of their infant son, but I had no idea that Anne was an accomplished aviator herself, that they went on to have many more children, that they had a close flirtation with national socialism and really just how intense the celebrity culture surrounding them was, even back then.

Like all historical fiction, The Aviator's Wife weaves fact with fiction, and in Benjamin's deft hands, this is done seamlessly. While it is on its surface a biography, it is in reality a book about a marriage, a woman struggling to find her identity within it, and the particular pressure that results from attempting to do that under public scrutiny. Both Anne and Charles are revealed to be flawed people, but then again, who of us isn't? And when the book was over, I was so immersed in the world Benjamin created that I went immediately and read everything I could about Lindberghs online.

I don't know if anyone 'deserves' to be on the bestseller list, in the sense that there are many excellent books that never make it and vice versa. But I certainly understand this books success and hope it keeps flying off the shelves. (You see! Puns everywhere!)

On to next week where The Life of Pi has finally dislodged Fifty Shades of Grey from its perch. (Insert personal happy dance here.) I read this book years ago and was pleasantly surprised, so I'm looking forward to reading it again.

 

Follow Catherine McKenzie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cemckenzie1

FOLLOW BOOKS