EAST TO THE DAWN by Susan Butler

EAST TO THE DAWN

The Life of Amelia Earhart
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This exhaustive new biography, coming on the centennial of Earhart's birth, throws new light on many of the more controversial elements of the aviator's life and death. Earhart was a self-possessed and downright adventurous young woman. Her two enduring passions were flying and social work, endeavors that both seem to have captivated the feminine imagination in her time. By the time she was 25, Earhart ``had become one of those early mythical heroes of the sky whom people came to see at air meets and dreamed of emulating.'' She ``vagabonded'' across the country solo in a plane and, with the help of her husband, publishing giant George Putnam, had the book documenting her tale out on the stands less than two weeks after completion of the feat. The list of her flight achievements is lengthy and impressive. But it is the cool yet inspired marriage between Putnam and Earhart, two inveterate adventurers, that lies at the core of Butler's biography. Putnam was a brilliant media spin-doctor who relentlessly promoted his wife's image. Butler's study raises some provocative questions (Was Earhart a feminist or just a singular human being? Were her feats victories for women everywhere or victories for pure heroism?) without convincingly answering them. But if the study isn't always persuasive in its answers, it is filled with wonderful details about Earhart's glamorous lifestyle and the wild, dangerous world of early aviators. Earhart disappeared at sea in 1938, trying to be the first pilot to circumnavigate the earth at its widest point, before turning 40. Even the manner of her death contrived to sustain America's fascination with her. Butler's flat writing style somewhat undermines her portrait of Earhart's singular emotional and physical courage. Nonetheless, the still enthralling figure of the aviator--wearing her signature trousers and jacket, blond hair and silk scarf blowing, beckoning to the free spirit in all of us--does powerfully come through. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-201-31144-5
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997




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