Summary and book reviews of The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife

by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2013, 416 pages
    Nov 2013, 448 pages

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Book Summary

In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America's most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

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.

Chapter 1

December 1927

Down to earth.

I repeated the phrase to myself, whispering it in wonder. Down to earth. What a plodding expression, really, when you considered it—­I couldn't help but think of muddy fields and wheel ruts and worms—­yet people always meant it as a compliment.

"'Down to earth?' did you hear that, Elisabeth? Can you believe Daddy would say that about an aviator, of all people?"

"I doubt he even realized what he was saying," my sister murmured as she scribbled furiously on her lap desk, despite the rocking motion of the train. "Now, Anne, dear, if you'd just let me finish this letter . . ."

"Of course he didn't," I persisted, refusing to be ignored. This was the third letter she'd written today! "Daddy never does know what he's saying, which is why I love him. But honestly, that's what his letter said—­'I do hope you can meet Colonel Lindbergh. He's so down to earth!'?"

"Well, Daddy is quite ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The Aviator's Wife Reading Group Guide

1. The epigraph for this novel is from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who, like Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was both a celebrated author and noted aviator. Do you agree with his statement that "One must look with the heart?" What do you think that means? And do you think it means something different to an artist (author) as opposed to a scientist (aviator)?

2. One of the recurring themes is how Anne will choose to remember Charles. How do you think she concludes to remember him by the end? How does it change?

3. Anne's father says, "And there's Anne. Reliable Anne. You never change, my daughter." (pg. 11). How does Anne change over the course of this novel? Or does she?

4. Compare the celebrity...
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BookBrowse Review


Until reading Melanie Benjamin's exquisitely crafted novel, The Aviator's Wife Anne Morrow Lindburgh seemed to be, as the title suggests, simply the aviator's wife. But her remarkable life far outshines that of her famous spouse.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (841 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A thoughtful examination of the forces which shaped the author of Gift from the Sea.

Library Journal

Well-researched and paced, this novel will certainly spark readers' interest in learning more about this famous couple.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In true Benjamin style, it's Anne who captures us all in this exquisite fictional take on an iconic marriage.

Author Blurb Kate Alcott, Author of The Dressmaker
Here, passionately imagined, is the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of one of the most legendary American heroes of all time. Vivid and mesmerizing, The Aviator's Wife takes us behind the scenes and into the heart of the woman who loved and married Charles Lindbergh. That was her destiny - a life that took her soaring into the skies and then plunged her to earth, a story of both triumph and pain that will take your breath away.

Author Blurb Nancy, Blue Willow Bookshop
Benjamin does a tremendous job of overlaying the facts with a writer's paintbrush that really make Charles and especially Anne come alive for the reader. This is by far Benjamin's best work to date.

Reader Reviews


Loved this book
This book was fascinating reading. Although I was familiar with the Lindbergh kidnapping case, I learned a lot I didn't know about Anne and Charles. I didn't know that they were plagued by reporters everywhere they went, even before the kidnapping. ...   Read More

Caroline R. (New Canaan, CT)

a wife's perspective
Very enjoyable and interesting perspective on Charles Lindbergh's life as told through the eyes of his wife. Good character development with the right amount of fact and fiction. I found myself routing for Anne and disliking Charles more than I ...   Read More

Lois P. (Logan, UT)

A Book to Savor
"The Aviator's Wife" is one of the best historical novels I've read this year! If you're an Anne Morrow Lindberg fan, you'll be glued to the page and admire Anne's resilience and courage even more as the strong woman behind the public image is ...   Read More

Marie A. (Warner, NH)

Who Were The Lindberghs?
In this novel, Melanie Benjamin successfully delves into a complex life led by complex characters. Exquisitely portrayed is Anne Morrow Lindbergh in a way few have been privy to. She is not the shrinking violet forever stuck in the shadow of her ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea

Anne Morrow Lindbergh is, of course, the aviator's wife in the new novel of the same name by Melanie Benjamin. She is also the author of the widely acclaimed book, Gift from the Sea, which was first published in 1955. Anne Lindbergh wrote it while in Florida, on Captiva Island, and she used the shells on the beach – as a metaphor to reflect on the lives of American women in the 20th century. Gift from the Sea is the kind of book typically categorized as "inspirational"; within its covers it explores many personal and social issues such as youth, age, love, marriage, contentment, peace and solitude.

Gift from the SeaOriginally written as a series of separate essays, Gift from the Sea reads as though it flowed directly from Lindbergh's head and ...

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