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The Aviator's Wife Review and Discussion

After hundreds of votes, you selected The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin as the second book in the House Party Blog book club. And while this wasn't my choice at the start, I fell hard for this book about Anne Lindbergh, wife of the infamous, Charles.

Like many of us, I never knew about Anne's accomplishments, and like most historical women, she was relegated to the background and only mentioned in the domesticated sense. It made my blood boil to read about how she was the first woman to get her glider's license and all the press could ever ask her was what she cooked in the cockpit. Of course, a lot speaks to the time period, but it stings nonetheless.

As I was reading, I had the recollection about the kidnapping but I didn't quite process that it would be in the book, and as a mother, it brought me to tears. When you read about something in a history book, you never think about the emotional toll. I'm actually really interested in reading more about "The Trial of the Century" and whether Hauptmann was a scapegoat or in fact a guilty party (of which, I'm certain there were more).

I also found it curious that while Amelia Earhart was mentioned, when she went missing that piece wasn't included. I'd love to know if that gave Charles and Anne pause about flying again.

And since we know he fathered more children, were they left anything in his will? Did his children ever find out?

The paparazzi aspect was also startling to me, especially in that they hampered the kidnapping investigation and followed the couple wherever they went. I can't even fathom Anne's pain at having people tell her that they were her son. How disgusting and horrifying!

And while I at times hated her weakness, I admired her strength in others and I'm glad she found her voice and herself before it was too late.

I'd love to hear what you thought as well. Here are some discussion questions, courtesy of Melanie's site, to get you thinking about the book, so feel free to answer them here in the comments or simply tell me what you thought.

1) The epigraph for this novel is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery 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) Compare the celebrity of the Lindbergh's to the celebrity couples of today. What current celebrities do Charles and Anne remind you of most?

4) Anne seems to think of herself as an outsider-someone too shy and insular to make a big impression on someone else. Do you think Charles saw through that? Or, do you think that was something about Anne that appealed to him? Is Charles an insular character himself, whether by personality or forced into a "celebrity bubble?" Or, do you think Anne simply misevaluates herself?

5) "Had there ever been a hero like him, in all of history?" (pg. 16) Anne starts her description of Charles with hero worship, comparing him to Columbus and Marco Polo. How does her opinion evolve as she comes to know him better? How did your opinion of Charles Lindbergh evolve through Anne's story?

6) The title of this book is, of course, The Aviator's Wife. Do you think that's how Anne views herself upon marrying Charles? Do you think she sees that as a role she's playing, or as a defining characteristic of who she is? Does it change over the course of the book?

7) Compare the relationships Anne has to the men in her life: her brother, Dwight, her father, and Charles.

8) What rights to privacy do you think a public figure should have? Does it go against being a public figure to get to decide what parts of his or her life stay private?

9) Do you think Charles and Anne were in love? Why or why not? Did that change over time?

10) Do you think you could keep the secrets that Anne keeps from her children? Why or why not?

11) Is Anne a hero? Why or why not?

12) If you could ask Anne a question, what would it be?


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