Title: The Astronaut Wives Club
Author: Lily Koppel (author website)
Genre: Womens History
Publisher: Grand Century Publishing, Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: 11th June 2013.
Stand alone or Series? Stand alone (Author’s second novel) – her first was the riveting ‘The Red Leather Diary’
Why did I choose to read this book? I was drawn to the title in a twitter competition and won. I won a cheese hamper that week too #twitterwhore.
Where to read? The wives detail their lives as being a bubble. However, Zorbing is probably not a good idea for reading, so why not try a weekend break to France in one of these ‘Bubble Tree’ contraptions?
Refreshments: Well the wives’ choice is deviled eggs and champagne (or sparkling wine for those of us on a budget) so it would have been rude not too partake in this simple yet delicious combination. Vol-au-vent anyone?
The Astronaut Wives Club investigates the unique group of women who supported their husbands as they transformed into the A-List of America’s space race. Spanning the 1950’s up until the termination of the space programme in 1972 this fascinating commentary details the lives of the wives of the NASA astronauts. This group of exceptional and very different women juggled with portraying the all-American family dream, with lunch at the White House and fending off the space cookies. These are women everyone should know about.
Koppel is the first to make a giant leap (sorry small Armstrong ad lib) into the world of these women and it is a truly remarkable one. Plucked from relative obscurity, wives of test and army pilots, these women were thrust into the limelight, every aspect of their lives documented by the media and completely taken over by their husbands careers. It was fascinating to learn about the network of support these women built but at the same time the complete loneliness they felt at the same time.
It was also extremely fascinating to have the thread of American Social History running through the book, especially Koppel’s insightful detailing of the Women’s Liberation movement. This is effectively woven into the ‘wives’ story, in reference to when accidents did occur and they were left widowed, and the brutal reality of what they should do next hit them.
Although these women didn’t physically walk on the moon it was eye-opening to read of the pressures of being married to the ‘rock-stars’ of the mid- 20th Century. The importance of presenting strong family values, when your husband was away doing god knows what was a constant struggle. The fierce competition between the astronauts also made it difficult for the wives to voice any real fears, if they claimed to feel anything other than, ‘Joy’ and ‘Pride,’ there was the chance their husband could be demoted down the flight order. It is clear these women deserve awards, as I’m not sure how many women these days could juggle all these balls whilst rocking a beehive.
The only downside I had, if you can call it that, was that Koppel is dealing with a vast group of women in her book. As a result, at times it was difficult to remember who was married to whom and exactly what their trials and tribulations were at the time. The chronological nature of the book is effective but it’s definitely a story that needs a flip back to the cast order every now and then.
This was an exceptionally interesting and at times shocking read about a topic that has been sidelined in the recounting of history.
Rating: 9 out of 10 – utterly absorbing (plus there’s photos!)