Having read and been fascinated by the accounts of the Apollo astronauts in Andrew Smith's excellent "Moondust" I was intrigued enough by the idea of hearing their wives' side of the story to request this book to review.
Unfortunately, this is no "Moondust". The prose is breathless, disjointed and written rather in the style of a downmarket women's magazine, replete with cliches. I found it difficult to decide whether the author was celebrating American achievements and the American Dream or being sceptical and sarcastic.
As for the women themselves - they were poorly served by NASA, and they've been poorly served by the author. NASA wanted identikit perfect American housewives, so that they could portray the astronauts as perfect clean cut American heroes, all smiles and stoicism. So NASA manipulated the women, and the media coverage into showing that. Never mind the constant living on the edge as your partner risked their life, never mind the affairs the men had, the endless absences ... the wives had to smile, look immaculately groomed at all times, raise their children, and be the perfect hostess with a sparkling house. And the women - on the whole - went along with this. Yes, they formed their own tightly knit circle, but not one of them put their stiletto heel down and said "no". One of them even went back to her husband so as not to jeopardise his place on the space programme!
I would really have liked to have found out why the women behaved as they did, but I didn't get that from this book. I found out what they ate (a lot of devilled eggs and moon cakes), drank, smoked (but not on camera) and wore, even the shade of lipstick they used, but nothing about how they felt, how they coped. I found it ironic that there was much made of Buzz Aldrin's lack of communication skills and emotion and yet his wife Joan's diary extracts published were incredibly bland too.
The author claims to have won the trust of the women. Maybe she did. But they still weren't saying much, but after a lifetime of keeping their true feelings hidden, it's not really surprising. Or maybe they did speak, and it was an authorial decision to tell the story through what the women wore.
An excellent subject for a book, but I feel it was let down by the author's writing style and focus on trivialities.
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