Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review - The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story  


Lily Koppel

Category: Biography; History

Synopsis: Koppel presents the NASA program of the 1950s-1970s through the eyes of the astronauts’ wives.

Date finished: 5 November 2013

Rating: ****

I’m unsure why I put off reading this book for so long. I wanted to read it when it came out, but something—a review, I think—squashed my interest. But I finally bought it and started it, and of course, I loved it. My concerns going in were twofold: (1) I’d heard that it was hard to keep all the wives straight, and (2) I was concerned the writing would be too journalism-y. I tend to dislike books written by journalists.

Well, there were a lot of wives, 49 I think. And there wasn’t much separation between the Mercury 7, the New Nine, the Fourteen, and the Nineteen, as they’re referred to. You get to know some better than others, and Koppel tends to subtly remind you who’s who as she launches into a story about her or her husband. But yeah, a lot of wives, and I, for better or worse, didn’t try all that hard to keep track of them.

And the writing wasn’t too journalism-y either. In fact, I wasn’t sure where she was getting her information— the Life articles, diaries kept by the wives, interviews? It wasn’t until the acknowledgments in the back that we learn it was through interviews. I would have liked that information up front.

I felt like this book should have been twice as long as it was. It covered so many wives, so many astronauts, so many space missions, and so many years, the pace almost seemed dizzying. Maybe it was just me, though.

This was a good book doing a lot of things. It followed wives from the Leave-it-to-Beaver-50s through the Betty-Freidan-60s and on into the Women’s-Liberation-70s. It examined the stress of private lives gone public, the heartbreak of loss, and the breakup of most of the marriages. The actual space missions their husbands prepared for and went on were somewhat secondary to the plot. History-light and women-heavy, I guess you could say.

I enjoyed this book, and I’m glad I finally read it. It’s a nice, quick read that makes you feel present for one of the most astounding eras of American, or even world, history.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

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