Book Review: I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

TITLE: I Was Amelia Earhart
AUTHOR: Jane Mendelsohn
PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf Inc.
PRICE: £6.58 on Amazon
ISBN: 0679450458
PERSONAL SOURCE: Bought for a dollar from a second-hand bookstore in Washington DC

In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea and were never seen again. In this novel, Mendelsohn imagines Earhart’s and Noonan’s life together on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and narrates Earhart’s life through her own eyes.

This is quite hard to review, because I wouldn’t generally class this as being a novel. It’s not action-packed, not character-driven, not really anything except a poetic jumble of thoughts and memories, told in both 1st and 3rd person. It deals with a lot of Earhart’s factual life, and then Mendelsohn has given herself free rein to decide what happened after 1937, whether Earhart died or survived, and what happened in her relationship with Fred Noonan (and, indeed, her husband, known in the novel as G.P.).

I quite enjoyed reading this book, although it was a) put-downable and b) there were some parts where I was tilting my head to the side and glaring through half-open eyes, but I was intrigued into the ending and would re-read it again, which is why it got a 5-star rating. Some people may not like the interchangeable POVs, and admittedly I found them confusing at times, especially because at times the author didn’t seem completely sure as to what they were doing.

One thing I, rather ironically, liked about the novel is that the author didn’t try to make the characters likeable. They just were and it was like meeting people in real life, with the secrets being revealed along the way. As it was, I only liked the two main characters – Fred and Amelia – at intermittent points in the novel, and disliked them anytime else.

Overall, I did enjoy this novel/novella (it says it’s a novel, but I would say it’s a novella??), and I would probably read it again. It did leave some to be desired, but it’s a novel that if I otherwise hadn’t read I would have written (although probably with less poetic language). 4.5/5 and a definite recommend to those who enjoy poetic literature.

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