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I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn
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I Was Amelia Earhart (1996)

by Jane Mendelsohn

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I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn was a strange reading experience. Instead of a outward look at the life of Amelia Earhart, this was more akin to being inside Amelia Earhart looking out. The book details her last flight, but with intense yet random thoughts on her marriage that was more like a business partnership, her complicated relationship with her navigator, her feelings about flight and flying, and her uncanny awareness that this would be a doomed flight. Then upon an emergency landing on a small Pacific island that they call “Heaven” the two embark upon a journey of self-awareness and acceptance of each other and their fate.

This book was on the 1997 Orange Prize Short List, and I can understand why this was so just from the beautifully descriptive writing but as it takes place all in the main character’s head, very much as thoughts come and go in our own heads, it was also disjointed, choppy and fragmented. I found this so personal that at times I forgot this was only fictional speculation, it felt much more like I was spying on her diary.

Both compelling and poetic, I Was Amelia Earhart has left me wanting to know more about the real life of this aviatrix that was for a short time America’s Darling. I will now be on the hunt for a non-fiction account of her life that will help to fill in the blanks. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jan 12, 2013 |
This is a dreamy book about what could have happened to Amelia Earhart on her round-the-world airplane flight in 1937. She was accompanied by her liquor-loving navigator when they were lost at sea. It's told mostly in the first person with some odd detours into third person that added to the sense of disconnection. I'm usually not a fan of alternate history accounts, but the hypnotic prose of this debut book made it a worthwhile read for me.

Apparently the Orange Prize jury thought it was worthy enough to shortlist it in 1997. I picked a quote almost at random because there were so many good ones to choose from. With writing this good and the small commitment of time, this makes a wonderful little venture into the land of "I Wonder"...

"Out on the water you can see the shadows of the clouds going by under the slanting sunlight. Great masses of clouds sometimes. They look like the undersides of vast ships. Their shadows look like ships on the water. The wind can be as deafening as the water, and the sound of trees in the wind is frightening. Palm leaves can make a noise more portentous than anything I've ever heard. It's a sound of rage, full of heat." (Pg. 68) ( )
4 vote Donna828 | Jul 17, 2012 |
The Book Report: The speculation about what really happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in 1937 has always been pretty durned feverish. This récit, can't really call it a novel because nothing happens and it's all a narrative inside the character's head, purports to be the internal monologue and reported dialogue with Noonan of Earhart herself as she takes off on her fateful round-the-world trip, gets lost, and then...well, it's the "and then" that's this story. It's a lovely thing, like most of the récits I've read over the years. Book itself is really pretty, too: A beautiful design, a jacket moody and evocative, type beautifully chosen...the whole enchilada.

My Review: This morning, I got a lovely note from a member new to LT regarding my review of another book. It being quite an agreeable sensation to receive praise for one's efforts, I popped over to that member's profile to say thank you, as a well-brought-up boy does. He lists in his current readings a few books about Amelia Earhart, whose name never comes up but I immediately gush to everyone around me about how I enjoyed "I Was Amelia Earhart" when I read it, and so they should trot right out and get copies theirownselves. True to form, I suggested this to my new best friend who told me I wrote a nice review that nobody else noticed, not that I'm bitter or anything but two lousy thumbs?, and then on a nagging suspicion went to look at my reviews.

I've never reviewed this book.

I was quite stunned. I have loved the atmospherics and the insights of this delight to the senses for fifteen years, and never written a review of it?!? So, after an afternoon of pleasure spent reacquainting myself with its brief, intense delights, I sat down to write this review. And sat. And sat.

This is a tough book to review because it's not a novel, so I can't point to action, and it's not a story because it's got too little urgency, and it's nothing like the popular books by popular writers that I read like everyone else to pass the time since I don't adore TV. What to say that doesn't sound pretentious and uppish? I just do not know.

I've settled on this: I'll show you the passage that made me stop reading, go get another glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, scratch the dog in her favorite places, and open the book back up to read it again. If you like this passage, you will like the book:

"Now, when she tries to remember her first excursion in an airplane, she can't distinguish it from the heavenly beauty of California in 1921...The spring came suddenly; the rains stopped, the days grew noticeably longer, and the afternoon light felt powdery, as if it might blow away. She doesn't remember that maiden voyage, but she remembers walking across the airfield when she stepped out of the plane. Strong, fresh skirts of breeze brushed against her face and body as she walked across the landing strip. Strands of her honey-blonde hair swept into her line of sight. She looked out past the hangars, over a field of tall, dry grass, and in the buttery light, with the wind grazing past her, she thought she could see forever. She had the sensation of seeing a length of time stretch out in front of her, endlessly, effortlessly, on an invisible wing. She felt as though an experience she had always anticipated were about to take place, as if a tender, unearthly feeling were finally going to reveal itself to her." (pp113-114, Knopf hardcover edition)

So? ( )
3 vote richardderus | Jun 17, 2011 |
Planes used to be vehicles for dreaming. They were strong and curvaceous, manly and womanly at the same time, simple, almost old-fashioned mechanical toys and vessels carrying the future. As soon as you saw a plane, you started dreaming. It was a thrill just to catch a glimpse of one.

A short book whose story is an imaginative recreation of Amelia Earhart's last flight, and its aftermath. The blurb on the back cover mentions its similarity to a J.G. Ballard story and it did remind me quite a lot of "The Unlimited Dream Company". The tale of a lost pilot, the dreamlike atmosphere of events after the crash, the uncertainty about whether events are really happening or just the fantasy of a dying pilot, are all reminiscent of Ballard's writings. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Mar 19, 2011 |
I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure why. The story skips, bounces, and meanders forwards and back. The point of view shifts and doubles back on itself - sometimes in a single paragraph. The words sing and plummet, soothe and rasp. I ended this short little book bemused and confused.

It is ostensibly the story of what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan after they were lost in the Pacific. It is also a commentary on loneliness, suicide, acceptance, death, survival, dreams, and celebrity. I'll be thinking about this book for awhile. Reason enough to recommend it - even without the wonderful imagery. And recommend it I do. ( )
1 vote MerryMary | Dec 29, 2010 |
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Epigraph
But in the roar of the wind she heard the roar of an aeroplane coming nearer and nearer. - Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Dedication
For Nick
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The sky is flesh.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679776362, Paperback)

In an evocative and imaginative novel, Amelia Earhart tells us what happened after she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea one windy day in 1937.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:57 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In a novel about a real-life mystery, Amelia Earhart describes what happened after she and her navigator disappeared off the coast of New Guinea in 1937 and discusses her love of flying, memories of her past, and her life with G.P. Putnam

» see all 3 descriptions

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