Synopsis from the back of the book: In 1931 Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh set off on a flight to the Orient by the Great Circle Route, and North to the Orient is the wonderful result—Mrs. Lindbergh’s beautifully written account of the trip, her own experiences as a novice radio operator and occasional co-pilot, and encounters along the way with such new friends as the proud, shy Eskimos on King Island and the exuberant Russian trappers on Kamchatka. Translated into many languages, North to the Orient has long been a world classic.
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction, Travel
Setting: 1931, the Great Circle Route: Canada, Alaska, Russia, Japan, China
My Copy Came From: I purchased a used paperback from a local library book sale.
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Review: A beautiful, fascinating read! North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh chronicles the flight that Anne and her husband, Charles Lindbergh, took in 1931 over what was then called the Great Circle Route. Traveling to China from the East Coast of the United States over the northern route (Canada, Alaska, and Siberia), North to the Orient talks about their preparation for the flight, the adventures they had while flying, and most of all, about the people they met along the way.
For it is in an attempt to capture some of the magic that I have written this summer’s experience—in an attempt to capture a phase in the history of travel that is perhaps unrepeatable and, as such, is worth being recorded.
This was a beautiful read. It’s a short read; my copy was just 138 pages long, and you can read it in one sitting. Anne has a lovely way with words and writing. I’m a fan of her writing, as I’ve previously read and reviewed the lovely Gift from the Sea. This read is a bit different as it’s an account of the Lindbergh’s flight and acts as more of a travel memoir.
Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air. There are no signposts in the sky to show a man has passed that way before. There are no channels marked. The flier breaks each second into new uncharted seas.
The Lindbergh’s start out from Long Island, and then they head to Ottowa, where they have dinner with men who try to dissuade them from making the flight. They then head towards various places in Canada and Alaska, where they meet people and learn about living life in the middle of nowhere. Places where all of your supplies are delivered once a year, and you’d better hope that the supply boat doesn’t get trapped in the ice. Living where there are no vegetables, and no beef. But a plentiful supply of fish!
“What’s it like outside?”
We hesitated a moment before answering. The peculiar emphasis on that word “outside”. They could not mean the weather.
“Our newspapers are a year old,” explained one of them. “We get three hundred and sixty-five at a time, and read one every day—just as you do at home—only, of course, the news is a year late.”
The Lindbergh’s flew a floatplane and one of the scenes depicted them landing in a lake, in Alaska, in what they thought was in the middle of nowhere, only to be awakened in the middle of the night by local duck hunters. They head to Siberia, and have adventures there, and then land somewhere off the coast of Japan when their plane breaks down, and they are rescued by singing Japanese soldiers. After spending some time in Japan, they head towards China, and while their flight intended to be a fun, see-the-world and study Arctic air-routes flight, when they landed in Nanking, China, it was in the middle of a large flood, and so Charles went out and helped take supplies to people who were affected by the flooded Yangtze.
I found this read absolutely fascinating. From the geography, to the people they met, and reading how Anne learned how to use the radio and how they packed their plane. My copy had an appendix where their flight log and all of their equipment was listed, and it makes mention of Charles’s meticulous approach to packing and how they determined what they would need. They were entirely dependent on their plane and equipment, and they were quite brave to attempt this flight!
I recommend this book to those who enjoy travel memoirs, books about aviation, and books about explorers. Highly recommended!
Bottom Line: Beautiful and transporting.
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2 thoughts on “Book Review: North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh”
I’m almost surprised this isn’t historical fiction. The way you describe it, it sounds like it is! I think that might bode well for this slight book, as it appears to have a good narrative structure.
Can you imagine weighing out your items before your flight? They would have to; the plane only carries so much excess weight. It’s kinda of like in the book Wild how every single ounce, including a package of condoms, is scrutinized.
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It does have good structure to it. It flowed so easily, and because it was so short, there wasn’t any filler or unnecessary scenes.
I found the flight prep stuff absolutely fascinating. Charles would pack and re-pack and weigh and re-weigh everything. And since this was 1931, and didn’t have the technology that we have now, they really were in a lot of trouble if the plane went down or had any mechanical issues along the way. You really come away from this book with a great respect for aviators during this time period! They were pretty brave.
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