Tuesday, January 4, 2011
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH by Susan Hertog (✰✰✰✰✰)
Every now and then I pick up something to read on a complete whim, knowing little or nothing about the subject. This, for me, was just such a book. I was trolling the audio download list at the library site and stumbled across this thought-provoking gem. The author, Susan Hertog, was a housewife who never aspired to be a writer but was driven to write this book by an utter fascination with Anne Morrow Lindbergh. At times her prose is a little over the top, but her narrative flow is excellent. Despite her obvious reluctance to besmirch her subject in any way, I felt that she did give a fairly balanced portrayal. I knew about Charles Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis and the tragic tale of the Lindbergh baby, but as I read this book I realized that I did not know even a modicum about this couple. If you were to take Anne and tell her story divorced from the time in which she lived, it would not carry near the impact. Anne was a well bred, well educated young woman who married a famous man and went on to become a writer and a pilot in her own right. She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter-all things that so many of us can claim to be. What made her existence so extraordinary was the time and place in which she lived. The central theme running through this biography is the general attitude towards women and the role they were expected to play in the society of the 1920s-1960s. Despite qualms which she might have felt with regards to her husband's beliefs on issues such as eugenics, anti-semitism, and U.S. involvement in the war, Anne publicly supported her spouse, even to the extent of lending her gifts as a writer to his causes. It was only after Kristallnacht, when Anne fully realized the extent of the persecution of the Jewish Europeans, that she began to feel the pull of her own beliefs and desires. From that point on, Anne's writings, which are frequently quoted in this book, expressed the conflict of wanting to honor the role society, and she felt God, expected of her, and to honor her own self. What utterly captivated me was that hers was a timeless battle which virtually every woman fights; watching it happen in her life, I felt as if I were seeing elements of my life reflected back at me in slow motion. And so, this one gets five stars for the snapshot it gave, not just of a single individual, but of many women, and for the beautifully artful integration of Anne's own writings, which has left me wanting to read everything Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote.