Lindbergh is A. Scott Berg’s third biography. The first was his 1978 book about Maxwell Perkins, the editor who worked with such literary giants as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Berg followed this with a 1989 book about legendary Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn. Berg’s reputation as a meticulous researcher earned him an advance of over a million dollars for his third book, even before he had started writing it. In researching Charles A. Lindbergh, he was given full cooperation from Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the famous aviator’s widow, who gave him exclusive interviews and access to private papers that previous biographers had sought to read, with no luck. The resulting 562-page book is considered to be the definitive work regarding Lindbergh’s life and personality. It won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for biography, and Stephen Spielberg has optioned the movie rights.
Berg’s book includes all of the minute details about Lindbergh’s background and his later life. The bulk of the story is spent, however, examining the events surrounding the three most remarkable occurrences in his life. His unprecedented solo flight over the Atlantic is covered in great detail, of course, from the first time he conceived of the idea, while flying a mail plane, to the ticker-tape parades he experienced that welcomed him around the globe. Berg also writes extensively about Lindbergh’s second brush with fame; public interest surrounding the kidnapping of his son, the famous ‘‘Lindbergh baby,’’ led to what is still called the Trial of the Century. The book also explains, as well as it can be explained, how public opinion turned against Lindbergh because of his pro-Germany stance in the years before World War II and how the man who had been surprised to find himself a sudden hero was just as surprised to find himself the object of public scorn. From 1941 to his death in 1974, Lindbergh was out of the public eye but pivotal to the development of commercial aviation and the space program.
Berg starts Lindbergh with a brief chapter about the high point of the aviator’s life, his arrival in Paris on May 21, 1927, using this moment in his story to summarize many of the important events that are to come. The statement that Lindbergh believed that this flight had started long before its takeoff thirty-three hours earlier, that it began generations earlier ‘‘with some Norsemen—infused with the Viking spirit—’’ is used to catapult the story back to the time of Lindbergh’s grandfather and to follow, thereafter, chronologically from Norway in 1859. Lindbergh’s grandfather was a swindler named Ola Månsson who, when it was time to flee Sweden, offered to take his wife and children. When they refused, he took his mistress and their illegitimate son. During their passage to America, he changed his name to August Lindbergh and the baby’s name to Charles.
Lindbergh’s father, Charles, grew up on a farm in Minnesota, earned a law degree, lost his first wife while she was giving birth to a daughter, and married a woman from the wealthy, aristocratic Lodge family. Their son, also named Charles, is born in February of 1902. Lindbergh’s father becomes a politician, is elected to Congress, and leaves the family with his wife’s relatives in Detroit while he takes off for Washington, D.C., an event that leaves Charles feeling abandoned and embittered. Though politics is what first creates a rift in his family, Lindbergh’s father proves spectacularly unsuccessful at it, losing several elections, including one for governor of Minnesota and one for his old house seat before leaving politics to invest in real estate.
Charles, who had been involved with his father in several of his campaigns and schemes, graduates high school and enrolls in the engineering college at the University of Wisconsin. He finds himself failing, unable to concentrate on his studies, and drops out to attend aviation school....
(The entire section is 1,555 words.)