Lindbergh, writes Berg, was "the most celebrated living person ever to walk the earth." It's a brash statement for a biography that makes its points through a wealth of fact rather than editorial (or psychological) surmise, but after the 1927 solo flight to Paris and the 1932 kidnapping of his infant son, most readers will agree. Berg (Max Perkins) writes with the cooperation, although not necessarily the approval, of the Lindbergh family, having been granted full access to the unpublished diaries and papers of both Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The result is a solidly written book that while revealing few new secrets (there are discoveries about Lindbergh's father's illegitimacy and Mrs. Lindbergh's 1956 affair with her doctor, Dana Atchley) instructs and fascinates through the richness of detail. There are no new insights into the boy flier, no new theories about the kidnapping, but there is a chilling portrait of a man who did not seem to enjoy many of the most basic human emotions. Perhaps more attention to Lindbergh's near-worship of the Nobel Prize-winning doctor, Alexis Carrel, would have explained more about his enigmatic character. Berg details Lindbergh's prewar trips to Nazi Germany at the request of the U.S. government; his leadership in the America First movement; his role in first promoting commercial aviation; and, during WWII, improving the efficiency of the Army Air Corps. As the book reaches its conclusion, however, it's the sympathetic portrait of Mrs. Lindbergh creating a life of her own while her husband chooses to be elsewhere that gives the biography the emotional scaffolding it lacked. The writing is workmanlike and efficient, and the story, familiar as it may be, encapsulates the history of the century. Photos. (Sept.) FYI: Putnam was said to have paid a seven-figure advance for Lindbergh in 1990.
Berg, whose biographies of Max Perkins and Sam Goldwyn are central texts in their fields, restores some luster to complicated aviator hero Charles Lindbergh by presenting his very full life‘from his lonely rural childhood to the enormity of his Spirit of St. Louis accomplishment; the kidnapping of his baby son, which led to the "Trial of the Century"; his enthusiastic state visits to Hitler's Germany; and his Pulitzer Prize and later conservation work. For the generation that has mostly known Lindbergh through his child's murder and a profoundly stupid speech he later made, this big, thoroughly researched book is a fine work of restorative storytelling.