Flower and the Nettle

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. The Flower and the Nettle: Diaries and Letters 1936 – 1939. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.

The Flower and the Nettle is Anne’s return to the living. It covers 1936 to 1939. After the death of her first born son she and Charles take their second son, Jon, to England for an “indefinite” stay. They are literally driven out of their own country by the media’s insatiable need to photograph and question the family. First, it was Charles Lindbergh’s fame, then it was the kidnapping and murder of their first child. It is at a rambling rented cottage in England called Long Barn that Anne and Charles can finally relax and be themselves again. Jon is allowed to play freely on the lawn without massive hyper-vigilant supervision. Anne is able to concentrate on her writing. It is here that humor returns to her diaries and letters. She says things like, “It is so delicious” (p 30), and “living passionately in the present” (p 31). Later, after her third son Land is born, Anne and her family move to Illiec off the coast of France. This is the “flower” part of her life. The “nettle” is the approach of World War II and the ensnaring politics. Following Charles to Russia for business Anne vocalizes her discontent with the country. She uses words like dirty, hideous, mediocrity, drab, shoddy, third-rate and glum to describe such things as the poor middle class. She is quick to comment negatively on their fashions and complexions. This took me by surprise. What I needed to keep in mind is the intense scrutiny Anne and her family felt. The longer they stay away from America, the more “pro-Nazi” they are “villainized” as being.

One drawback of skipping a book in a series is the potential to not understand references made to that book in the next one. Because I didn’t read Locked Doors I didn’t grasp Lindbergh’s reference to a previous trip to Russia in 1933.

Favorite lines, “One gets so cramped in ordinary living” (p 76). A good excuse to get out there and do something extraordinary!

As an aside, looking at pictures of Long Barn I can’t help but think what a wonderful place! Don’t tell my husband, but it looks like my dream home! It would have been nice if Lindbergh had included maps of not only her travel destinations, but of the places she and her family lived in Europe.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January, in honor of Journal Month.

Book trivia: Maybe because The Flower and the Nettle is a longer book, there are more photographs. For the first time, Anne includes detailed pictures of the interiors of their residence. Long Barn looks like a place where I would like to live!

Author fact: At this point in Lindbergh’s life she considers herself a serious writer despite already publishing earlier.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 131).

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