Not for women only! Nancy Fort, staff member of the RFL, in her third in the series, has selected books that detail the fictional lives of the wives and paramours of some of the famous — Hemingway, FL Wright, FS Fitzgerald & Charles Lindbergh. Great choices for book clubs!
It all started for me with Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. The story of architect Frank Lloyd Wright as told from the perspective of his lover Mameh Cheney. This was the first book of several that I read about women in relationships with famous men, what Publisher’s Weekly refer to as the “complex-woman-behind-the-legendary-man genre”. The Paris Wife by Paula McCain tells the story of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley Richardson while they lived in Paris and mingled with other American expatriates such as the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler was a natural follow up as the cast of characters overlapped from The Paris Wife. I finished my look at the wives of famous men with The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. This novel focused on the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, spouse of Charles Lindbergh.
The first thing to keep in mind while reading these books is that they are fiction. They are based on real people and events and rely on meticulous author research for period details. While the scenes are very realistic, the reader can only surmise what motivated the women in these stories to stay in relationships with very famous and often very difficult men. Anne Morrow Lindbergh is the exception as she wrote several books that included her personal diaries and letters and her reflections about her life. I picked up her book Gift from the Sea while browsing at the library. The book was originally published in 1955 yet is amazingly applicable to the lives that many of us lead today. I found the book a wonderful study of the role of the modern woman written by an insightful and gifted author.