The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie BenjaminI’m continuing my spree of fiction based on real-life events with The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. It recounts the adult life of Anne Morrow Lindberg. Yes, that Lindberg. Wife of the aviator, mother of the kidnapped baby. Overall, I really enjoyed The Aviator’s Wife. Let’s face it, it is a fascinating story. Do you sense a ‘but’ coming? ‘Cause I do.

I feel like the title says it all about this book – this is about Charles Lindberg’s wife. That is my major complaint about the book because Anne Lindberg was a formidable person in her own right. Like her husband, she was a pilot. And with her husband she mapped new flight paths all over the world. But the book, while trying to highlight her achievements, ends up always placing her in a subordinate position in her own story, and that ain’t right.

The Aviator’s Wife was also a little lighter than I tend to read. I’m courting controversy here, but I’m going to refer to it as women’s fiction. Like you, I hate the term, but I’m still going to use it. What I mean is that i feel like the book was written for a particular audience in mind, but more than that, it was written to not challenge that audience too much. To understand what I mean, I think you only have to compare this book to Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.

Who would like this book? The story of the Lindberg marriage is a fascinating one. They were really the first couple to be catapulted into the paparazzi frenzy that is now commonplace for most celebrities. Couple that with the kidnapping of their first born, accusations of Nazi sympathies and a myriad of affairs and you’ve got one bang up story. Comparisons to Circling the Sun are inevitable because both novels focus on early female pilots. The comparison is also interesting because of how differently the two subjects are treated.



  1. Like you, I found that this one strayed a little too far over the ‘Women’s fiction’ for my liking (I HATE that term – what does it even really mean?!). Anyway, the only thing I enjoyed about this book was the true facts about their marriage and son (I didn’t know any of it so it was quite a shock!). Here’s my review – (I wasn’t as generous as you).

  2. I haven’t read the book, but maybe, in this case, it’s intentional that she is written about in relation to her husband. Maybe that’s how she was viewed by the world (and even by herself) during her lifetime. Did you get a good from the book about how she felt about herself and her role?
    This sounds like a good contender for Literary Wives.

  3. Hi Tanya,

    I see what you mean about this book but I did enjoy it for the historical aspect. Of course, no way to verify statements in the book. At times, I look for a ‘lighter’ read and this was perfect for that. L

  4. This is my biggest pet peeve with these “wife” stories – these women are often fascinating, strong, complete individuals with their own accomplishments, worries and dreams and they become a footnote to their husbands’ stories. Sounds like I’m skipping this one!

  5. And that’s the problem I had, well, it’s the problem I have with all of these “wife” books, but it’s the reason why I had complaints about Circling the Sun too. They focus on the woman-only-ever-needing-a-man-in-her-life-so-she’s-complete. I’m just done with the whole storyline about the woman being the weeping, sad, soft creature in the corner desperate for the man’s attention (every single Hemingway “wife” book I’ve come across), and in these cases, the famous man’s wife. I don’t want to read those, they make me angry (I for real tossed Mrs. Hemingway across the room). 🙂 I did have Aviator’s Wife down as to read, but I think I’ll pass and not feel too badly about it.
    Completely agree with your comment too Paperback Princess!

  6. What a shame that this story put her as a subordinate to her husband, especially as she sounds fascinating. I’m tempted to read the book for the story, but not for the content – if that makes sense.

  7. I’ve always been bothered by novels with the word wife in the title, because to me it suggests that the main female character is only important because of her relationship with a man. I’m sure there are a lot of great books with the word wife in the title, but the way you describe this book is more what those titles make me expect.

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