Lily Koppel – The Astronaut Wives Club (2013)

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I was a little shocked to see such negative reviews of this book on Goodreads. Many complaints cited the fact that this was more of a “story” rather than a history. While as a historian I did have a slight problem with the lack of footnotes or sources to back up the stories Koppel tells, over all I felt this was en enjoyable read.

Astronauts during the Space Age were literally larger than life, and their wives often had to keep up the appearance of the nuclear families. While I always assumed the hardest part of being an astronaut wife was dealing with the fact that your husband was continuously in danger, most of these women were previously army wives and were quite used to this aspect of the job. It didn’t necessarily make their lives easier, but they had dealt with the possibility of their husbands not coming home for many years before they became astronauts. The hardest part of the job was the spotlight that these women were inevitably put under while their husbands raced to the moon.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this book was the discussion of how the government and NASA injected themselves into every part of the women’s lives from the way the dressed, where they lived, and even what colour lipstick they wore. In a photo shoot for Life Magazine the wives had all decided to wear pink lipstick, but when the cover was printed the colour was changed to red to symbolize the women’s patriotism.

While overall I liked the book, it got a bit hard to follow since Koppel wanted to talk about all astronaut wives, not just the Original “Mercury Nine.” I began to loose track of the wives and “who’s who.” Furthermore I would have loved to know more about the wives of the Apollo 13 astronauts. This book would have been stronger had Koppel simply chosen to devote all her attention to the original Astronaut Wives Club. I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it; I think that there is a lot more work to be done on the lives of the astronaut wives.

Rating: 4/5

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