This week started our first of November’s “Month of Travel” theme for the reading challenge. We kicked off our challenge picking up a biography (the first of the challenge) about Amelia Earhart, a legendary woman, American and pilot. I’ve always found her legend fascinating, mostly because of the mystery surrounding her disappearance.
Letters from Amelia: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart by Jean L. Backus uses a recently (well, recently as of the book’s 1982 publication) found collection of letters written by Amelia to her mother, Amy. Backus uses the letters, as well as interviews, newsreels and newspaper clippings, and biographical books to piece together a never-before-seen-view of Amelia’s life, told mostly through her own words. The book was very interesting. Amelia was, from youth, a very bright and inspired woman. She didn’t have a life-long fascination with avionics, and only took to the sky in her 20s. She lived an unconventional life even before becoming famous, refusing to settle down and protesting to marriage – mainly because of the unhappy relationship between her parents.
Amelia’s fame wasn’t guaranteed simply because she was a trend-setting woman. Her fame was carefully promoted by her public relations representative, who later became her husband (when Amelia was well into her late 30s). He pushed her career, encouraging her to take herself and her plane to the ultimate limit – making her famous and infamous for her record setting career. Backus presents various suggests theories surrounding Amelia’s mysterious disappearance, and leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions.
This book was slow going. I’m not really a fan of biographies (give me historical fiction any day), but I felt that Backus went off on tangents and had a hard time staying on track. I think her book could have been much better (and possibly shorter) if Backus had kept to the subject at hand instead of spending pages on friends who visited Amelia at her house when discussing her married life. Just an example of the kinds of tangents Backus took. I feel like Backus wanted to fit in everything she discovered about Amelia, when really the writing should have been much more selective to make the book more interesting. I also had a few problems with her writing style – there were frequently oddly-worded sentences thrown into the mix… sentences I found myself reading and re-reading in an attempt to make sense of it.
Overall, I enjoyed Letters From Amelia. I’m glad I took the opportunity to learn more about Amelia Earhart. She was truly ahead of her time, taking on challenges that at the time (and even into our time) were seen as masculine, without a care for what anyone thought of her. She had a wonderful support network, was exceptionally caring to her family (even taking financial responsibility for her mother and later her married sister), and a visionary in regard to women’s rights. Her main goal seemed not to set records, but to inspire women (and men) to know that women were just as capable as men. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “please don’t bother” and 5 being “this book is nothing short of miraculous) , I would give this book a solid 2.5.