The Lindbergh Nanny
It’s hard for me to resist a story about the Lindbergh kidnapping and I enjoyed reading this historical fiction account of Betty Goss, the nanny who took care of the Lindbergh baby and was the last person to see him alive. If you’re not familiar with the kidnapping, here’s a quick summary.
On March 1, 1932, in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, Charlie Lindbergh, toddler son of the famous aviator Charles and his wife Anne, was asleep in his crib when someone climbed a ladder, came through the window to his nursery and kidnapped him. Two months later, a trucker discovered his partially buried body on the side of a nearby road. In September 1934, police arrested a German immigrant carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann and charged him with murder. Hauptman insisted he was innocent, but a jury found him guilty and he was electrocuted in 1936.
Betty came under a great deal of scrutiny because she had left the window to Charlie’s room open on the night of the kidnapping. Police and investigators felt strongly that it was an inside job, that someone had told the kidnapper that the Lindberghs would be home that night and suggested that Betty left the window open to allow access to the room. But Betty wasn’t the only person under suspicion. Police questioned and requestioned many members of the staff who worked for the Lindberghs as well as the Morrows, Anne’s family. Police also investigated Betty’s past, suggested she was connected to the Chicago mafia and were suspicious of her relationship with a young Norwegian sailor.
Fredericks does a good job describing the lives of the super-wealthy Morrows and Lindberghs and the lively, sometimes scandalous relationships between the Morrows’ butler, chauffeur, maids and servers, as well as the Lindbergh’s cook and caretaker. Readers also get a look at what Charles and Anne were like as new parents. Charles insisted on a strict hands-off parenting style and felt that too much affection and attention was a bad thing.
I liked how the author described their lives before the kidnapping, during the investigation and at the trial where Betty was called to testify. I also liked how the author tells the story through Betty’s point of view. In her closing notes about the book, Fredericks talks about her fascination with the Lindbergh kidnapping and her interest in writing about Betty Goss. “When I first started exploring the identity of the actual Lindbergh nurse (the term then preferred over ‘nanny’), I was amazed no one had written her story since it first appeared in the headlines nearly a century ago.”
I was going to give this a 3.5 star rating because at times, I had trouble following parts that described Betty’s movements and thoughts. But the story picked up a great deal during the trial and totally surprised me with a possible explanation of how the kidnapping occurred and who was responsible. Definitely speculative, but we will never know the true story.
There is plenty of information about the kidnapping online and you can start with this Wikipedia account. In addition, if you’d like to read more, check out these two books, the first reviewed by my sister, K (thanks K!).
Thanks for visiting—come back soon!