The Aviator's Wife

The Aviator's Wife - Melanie Benjamin Rating = 2.5 starsThe Lindberghs had been married for almost 40 years when Tammy Wynette sang "Stand By Your Man" in 1968, but it's a song Anne Morrow Lindbergh could have written about her relationship with aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh. Sometimes it's hard to be a womanGivin' all your love to just one manYou'll have bad times, and he'll have good timesDoin' things that you don't understand. But if you love him you'll forgive himEven though he's hard to understandAnd if you love him, oh be proud of him'Cause after all he's just a man...It's a perfect theme for Anne's 45-year marriage to a difficult, tyrannical man. "Stand by your man, and show the world you love him..." That was Anne's job, showing the world an unshakable facade of a couple united in all opinions. Said opinions were formulated by Charles, who then foisted them upon Anne as part of her wifely duty. She even went so far as to write a pamphlet stating that some form of fascism was "the wave of the future," supporting Charles's isolationist, reputedly pro-Nazi stance on World War II. Anne Lindbergh narrates her own story in this novel, but Charles inevitably dominates their shared stage. And what a jackass he was. I never knew. The way Melanie Benjamin portrays him makes it tough to understand how Anne could have fallen for him. But she was so besotted with his image as the handsome heroic pilot that she overlooked his personality flaws. In short, Charles Lindbergh was a cold, distant, bigoted, dictatorial philanderer. Even after all the hell he put her through, Anne wasn't quite willing to let go of her heroic fantasy, choosing to focus on his numerous admirable accomplishments. And yes, he did encourage her in accomplishments of her own, but the message was always clear: "Do well enough to make me look good, but don't forget, I'm the important one."This novel was a plodder for me, although I do appreciate the bits of history I was able to glean from it. I was especially interested to learn of how the Lindberghs were hounded by the press and other hangers-on. I knew the press had been relentless after what happened to Charles Junior, but I'd been unaware of how they'd been deprived of privacy for most of their married life.The first part of the book was difficult to get through. Anne's fawning, giddy worship of Charles reads like an unromantic historical romance. It appears that she just could not wait to take up her position as doormat for "Lucky Lindy". After tragedy strikes, Anne has to develop a more mature view of her marriage, and the narrative loses some of that sappy, insecure tone and giddy romantic babble. The Aviator's Wife is due out in mid-January. I would recommend it for readers of light historical fiction with emphasis on emotions and domestic relationships. Readers with a taste for rich, complex historical fiction are likely to regard it as a light appetizer rather than a sumptuous meal.