Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

Books Completed: 51
Completion Date: April 1, 2007
Publication Year: 1996
Pages: 186
Owned Prior to 2007
April Read for the Back to History Challenge

In this brilliantly imagined novel, Amelia Earhart tells us what happened after she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea one glorious, windy day in 1937. And she tells us about herself.

There is her love affair with flying ("The sky is flesh") . . . .

There are her memories of the past: her childhood desire to become a heroine ("Heroines did what they wanted") . . . her marriage to G.P. Putnam, who promoted her to fame, but was willing to gamble her life so that the book she was writing about her round-the-world flight would sell out before Christmas.

There is the flight itself -- day after magnificent or perilous or exhilarating or terrifying day ("Noonan once said any fool could have seen I was risking my life but not living it").

And there is, miraculously, an island ("We named it Heaven, as a kind of joke").

And, most important, there is Noonan . . .
One of the aspects to history that always interested me is the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart 70 years ago. Over the years, there have been lots of theories, but it is still unknown what happened all those years ago. When I read the non-fiction accounts and the articles I always find myself wondering if everything was done back then to assure what happened to her and her co-pilot, or if that is just the gift of hindsight.

In this particular novel, Jane Mendelshohn toys with the idea that they were stranded on a deserted island, and that is the theory that scientists and other professionals are hoping to prove this summer. Is that not scary, though, to find out that her and Noonan might have survived for a great deal of time on an island, and they died before anyone found them. That is the theory that makes me wonder if everything that could have been done at the time was done. There seems to have been a lot of information that they were presented with that they ignored. It is a scary thought, really it is.

Mendelsohn dreams up a great little book. She uses what we do know, the events leading up to the disappearance, but then she goes on to imagine what happened after radio contact was lost. She dreams up their island, what life was like for them on the island, and touches on her imagined reason for why they were never found. She makes them very self-sustaining, though. It would even be possible if they lived anywhere near how she has them live, if they were in fact on an island they stayed alive for quite some time.

All in all, an interesting look at what happened to Amelia Earhart.


Book Four in the Back to History Challenge.


  1. I, too, am fascinated by the story of Amelia Earhart. I hope the scientists can solve this puzzle, even if the resolution is disturbing.

  2. Another interesting sounding book. I'll have to check into this one.


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