Thursday, January 24, 2013

"The Aviator's Wife"

Alice I Have Been is Melanie Benjamin's first historical novel; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is her second.

Benjamin applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and reported the following:
When the reader gets to page 69 in The Aviator's Wife, it is at the beginning of a pivotal scene in the book; the courtship of Charles and Anne. They courted in the air, not on the ground; they always shared flight, that freedom in the sky that brought out the best of each of them. On page 69, they’re on their way to an airfield where Charles will take Anne up for the second time in their acquaintance, and where he will introduce in her the idea that she, too, can learn to fly. Charles did this for her; he saw in her a strength, a courage she didn’t quite see herself. The unfortunate thing is that, once giving her wings, he seemed to spend a lifetime trying to clip them. On page 69, that is all in the future; she has yet to learn to fly. And before she does so; before she can experience this freedom she has only dreamed of, she has to learn to navigate a life with Charles both on the ground and in the air. And this early scene implies the difficulties of that life, still ahead of her:
Months had passed since we’d seen each other, but obviously he did not feel compelled to explain what he had been up to, and so, out of defiance and a prickly sense of pride that made me set my mouth a certain way, neither did I.

I glanced at my wristwatch, then at the immobile face beside me, the eyes hidden by those round smoky lenses, the brow obscured by that magical hat.

But if he didn’t talk, neither did he give any indication that he expected me to. So I gave myself over to the purity of simply being, with him, on a fine summer day. Only once did I break the silence; it was when we drove along a lane bordered on either side with young birch trees.

“Oh, look! It’s like they’re bowing to us!” I couldn’t help but laugh, pointing as the tops of the trees shimmied ahead of us, bending in the light breeze. Charles nodded but kept his eyes on the road, and so I retreated once more, embarrassed by my outburst.

Finally we turned down a long gravel road that led to an open field. There, two planes were waiting; an enormous white French Normandy-styled house rose up in the distance, along with several barns and smaller dwellings.

Charles braked the car, and the engine sputtered off. He turned to me.

“Well, that was fun,” he said with a sudden, surprising grin, and I had to laugh.
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue