The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming

 The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming, Schwartz & Wade (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 9780525646549, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book?  Fleming triumphs again. Fascinating, thorough, timely and a great read! What else could you want in a biography? Writing in a matter-of-fact voice, Fleming manages to hold the reader’s interest while rummaging through cartloads of information about a very complex man. If all you remember about Lindbergh is the flight and the kidnapping, prepare to be astounded. Her teaser of an opener draws sharp parallels between a 1941 America First event at Madison Square Garden and our current day MAGA rallies. Then, starting with Lindbergh’s idiosyncratic childhood, Fleming carefully looks for the roots of his interests and aversions: aviation, engineering, eugenics, isolationism, facism and environmentalism. She also examines the role of tabloid journalism, both in creating Lindbergh’s heroic persona and in creating his loathing for the free press, which helped tip him toward Hitler’s embrace of authoritarian dictatorship.  His lack of sophistication made him a soft target for Nazi manipulation and, swayed by his hosts at the 1936 Olympics, may have encouraged the policy of appeasement. I learned so much from reading this book. A center section of illustrations includes a map of the famous flight and a diagram of the Spirit of St. Louis as well as photos of Lindy’s parents, his wife Anne Morrow, his children and various family dogs. The end matter is extensive and includes a bibliography with primary and secondary sources, chapter-by-chapter source notes and an index.

The structure of the book mimics William L. Shirer’s famous The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, comparing and contrasting Hilter’s ascension with Lindbergh’s. I love a biography with a strong conceptual framework. Fleming is arguing that, like many savants, Lindbergh’s success in one area, didn’t make him worthy of adoration in others (cue accolades for modern day celebrities…)

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. Readers who have read her other books (especially The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia) will enjoy this new one.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Accessible for tweens, teens and even adults, looking for an introduction to Lindbergh. 

Who should buy this book? Middle, high school and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 8, 2020


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