June 21, 2019

Featured Author: Melanie Benjamin

I was really happy when I realized that there were more books I haven't read by Melanie Benjamin. All 3 of hers that I have read so far have been hits for me: historical fiction about real people. Then, always at the end, she talks some about what are the "facts" and what she extrapolated from that--which I am always so curious to know.

Overall, they are clean. They don't have language issues. She handles marital intimacy with care and isn't graphic in her descriptions.

In each book, I have been fascinated by the life of the woman I'm learning about, and feel as though I know them by the end of the book.

If you need a summer read with a bit more substance to it than the usual fluff, give one of these a try!

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The Aviator's Wife, by Melanie Benjamin

4 stars: Warm and understanding look at an iconic lady.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was never one to seek out the spotlight, as a child. She much preferred to blend into the background and let her pretty, vivacious older sister Elizabeth be the center of attention. Then she met Charles Lindbergh, a young aviator who had just become famous for his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

Much to her surprise, he sought her out, and eventually even asked her to marry him. She could hardly believe it--that he would prefer HER above anyone else. Granted, his proposal seemed more practical than lovey-dovey, but that was just details, really. Wasn't it? She said yes, and overnight, the shy girl who sought the shadows was thrust into the blinding light of fame and publicity.

Though the country was going through the Great Depression, the Lindberghs never really felt the pinch. They were arguably the most famous couple in the world, given special attention by kings, presidents, famous actors and actresses, and hordes of hyper-interested fans.

This is the story of their life together and their marriage, told from Anne's perspective. The ways their marriage changed as little Charles Jr. was born, and again when his horrific kidnapping and murder happened. How they went on from there, and raised several more kids, amidst World War 2 and everything else.

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I happened upon this one at the library last week. As soon as I realized who the author was, I immediately snatched this one up!

This is one of my favorite types of historical fiction. I enjoyed learning more about the Lindbergh's, while getting some insight into what Anne may have been feeling and thinking throughout all that went on.

Content: A couple of intimate scenes--not graphic. For adults.


Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin

4 stars

Based on the life of Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves, the little girl who was the inspiration for Charles Dodgson's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Benjamin brings life to Alice's story, far beyond a sunny afternoon on the river with her sisters and some grownup friends. Her personality as a child was a delight, even as I feared for where it would lead her. Her personal triumphs and tragedies felt very real. Side characters were also well-developed: Dodgson and her mother, in particular.

I appreciated her notes at the end about her research, including what was fact as far as we know it, and what she interpreted. I want to read more by Melanie Benjamin!

* Originally reviewed Sept. 2013

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, by Melanie Benjamin

4 stars

Based on the life of Mercy Lavinia Bump Stratton.

"Vinnie" was born normal-sized, but after reaching toddler-hood, simply stopped growing physically. Her parents tried to protect her from life--wheels, horses, other children--but Vinnie would have none of it. She had big dreams; she wanted to make a difference; she wanted to see more of life than there was available in her bucolic home town.

As a teenager, when the chance came to join a showboat, she jumped at it and never looked back...much. From there on to P. T. Barnum's American Museum, to meeting and eventually marrying the world-famous small man, General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton), her life was much bigger than her family had ever dreamed it could be. But at what cost to those she loved?

Benjamin does an excellent job portraying the inner life of this intelligent, ambitious woman, who just happened to be 32" tall. This could be a fun one for book club.

Originally reviewed Sept. 2013.

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Looking on Goodreads, I've got more of hers to catch up on, as well. I'm happy about that! The ones I haven't read yet are The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Mistress of the Ritz, The Girls in the Picture, plus a couple more.

Have you read any by her? What did you think?

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