I learned of this book from bloggers Carla Loves to Read and Book Club Mom Won’t you take time to read their reviews and leave them each a nice comment? We bloggers live off comments.
It would be hard to have read so much about World War II and not have stumbled across the other side of “Lucky Lindy”–the side the found much to admire in Nazi Germany and the Lindy who was the darling of the America Firsters So, too, would it be hard not to have heard of the famous Kidnapping of the “Lindbergh baby” and the search to find him that was led by General “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf’s father as head of the New Jersey State Police. Add to that having read several of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s books, as well as other Lindbergh fiction and well, you could say I just had to read this one.
Betty Gow immigrated from Scotland and ends up caring for the most famous baby of the day–Charles Lindbergh, jr. She is left in sole charge of “Charlie” (albeit at a home belonging to his maternal grandparents) while the baby’s parents go off on a long flying trip. On their first day a photographer sneaks a photo.
The Lindberghs, when not off flying, have been living at her parents’ estates in New Jersey and Maine–her father was Ambassador to Mexico and a Senator and they are very well off. Their new house, in Hopewell, New Jersey, is just being finished. It is constructed to be fireproof, for Colonel Lindbergh is terrified of fire. Once finished, Betty and Charlie moved into the nursery.
It was from that room that Charlie was kidnapped. A warped shutter in the new window was hard to latch and so Betty left it. Charlie was in bed with wire thumb guards on as ordered by Colonel Lindbergh, his covers were pinned to the mattress to keep him warm. Colonel Lindbergh’s rule was that no one–not even he or Mrs. Lindbergh could go in and check on Charlie or comfort him if he cried for a period of several hours. This was designed to teach the infant independence. The criminals seemed to have a perfect set-up. But, had Betty helped them? Had she said something? Shown something? Was it the caretaker couple’s plot? Did another servant have a role?
We all know the outcome for poor Charlie, but what about for Betty? This is Betty’s story–Betty’s story of living with the Lindberghs and taking care of Charlie. And Betty’s life after the kidnapping.
This book is fiction based on fact. Words are put into characters created by the author. We do not really know what Charles and Anne Lindbergh may have said to each other outside of what was recorded on film or in a diary. This story imagines what might have happened in their house.
I thought Betty was fairly believable as a character. The Lindberghs were cardboard cut-outs though. I thought the author worked hard to relate the story to today’s readers. There was the “immigrant” who “just wanted to work” but had never bothered to go through the immigration process. There was the cruel U.S. Government who deported people who “just wanted to work.” Betty and her mother back in Scotland had “heard things” about the police in America. Those things got old, but were a small part of the story.
I thought Lindbergh was foolish in saying his servants were above reproach. No background checks were done before hiring them. As was typical of the day, letters of reference were all that were used–even if faked. They did not even hire through a professional agency specializing in providing well-vetted servants. But, as we would learn after his death, he was foolish in so many ways.
Interestingly, the person who most came to mind as I read of Betty’s post-kidnapping life was Monica Lewinsky. The way she was all but destroyed by the press while the man who made her famous got little censure except from his opposing political party (who, let us not forget, shoved the STAR Report down our throats with enough prurient detail to be considered only for over age 18 had it not been a government document). Betty was hounded, given death threats in the mail, and rendered unemployable.
I liked the way misinformation and bad research technique figured into the press accounts too–saying Betty had been a dancer or worse when that was a different person with that name. And, then, there was the other “modern” element–Betty’s secret (it had nothing to do with liking women or wanting to be a man). Something women in this state are hard pressed to do, but all women were unable to do in Betty’s time–except illegally.
This was a very compelling read. Give it a go!
The Lindbergh Nanny by Maria Fredricks