LETTERS FROM AMELIA: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart by Jean L. Backus

LETTERS FROM AMELIA: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart

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The prosaic letters Amelia Earhart wrote to her mother from boarding school onward--set in a drab biographical narrative that has mainly to do with family relations (and hardly at all with flying). On the 50th anniversary of her first solo transatlantic flight, this is not the book to rekindle interest in Earhart. Backus seems chiefly to want to explain Earhart's ""patronizing"" attitude toward her mother and younger sister, and to dispel the notion of sibling rivalry. In this connection, she also takes some stabs at psychological analysis: the long alcoholism of AE's father made her overprotective toward her mother and sister; the family habit of concealing difficulties ""made her unwilling or unable to show her deepest feelings."" She also misunderstood their need to stay out of her shadow--while she, unenthusiastically married to publisher/promoter George Palmer Putnam and childless by choice, needed to be involved with them. The interpretation is perfectly plausible--however speculative, episode-by-episode--and so is Backus' reading of AE in general and vis-à-vis Putnam. ""Flying lured her as no man ever would."" Aware that GPP had oversold her as the first woman to fly the Atlantic (with others at the controls), she was determined to set records on her own. But even as regards family matters, the story is told by the narrative--to which the letters, mostly about money she's sending and what her mother should do with it, serve at best as corroboration. A couple of exceptions are precise instructions on how her mother should behave as AE's mother. On a European trip: ""don't express international opinions""; ""never tell of mishaps, lost baggage, cold mutton chops, runs in your hose, etc."" Amelia Earhart, we're reminded, was no slouch--but the book is pretty deadly.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1982
Publisher: Beacon