L.S. Klepp
April 26, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

I Was Amelia Earhart

Current Status
In Season
Jane Mendelsohn
Historical Fiction, Fiction

We gave it a C

Soon after Amelia Earhart, the pioneering pilot and feminist icon, disappeared without a trace over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, there were swarms of intricate theories about what really happened to Earhart, despite the fact that Oliver Stone hadn’t even been born yet. Most likely she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, died when their plane, running out of fuel and off course, plunged into the ocean. But maybe her friend Franklin D. Roosevelt had asked her to fly over the nearby Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands to do some spying, and she was captured and shot. Maybe she reached home safely but assumed a new identity. Or maybe she and Noonan survived on a little Pacific island, as Jane Mendelsohn imagines in her first novel I Was Amelia Earhart. But this Earhart is a touchy-feely narcissist who doesn’t seem a plausible makeover of the matter-of-fact aviator. (Well, maybe she got a bad bump on the head when she crashed.) Mendelsohn provides some evocative moments (a heat wave, a storm) but no suspenseful or revelatory ones. I wouldn’t recommend taking this solemn, self-absorbed book with you to a desert island. C

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