Monday, December 20

Amelia Earhart

The Air Museum at which I give tours has on display a replica of the Lockheed Electra in which Amelia Earhart made her final voyage. In hopes of having better material to present at that point in my tours, I scoured the library for books on Ms. Earhart. Finding "The Sound of Wings", I assumed it would be as sufficient a biography as any - what I found instead was a tour de force of the life and times that created an aviation legend.

Despite the famous names, daring exploits and record breaking endeavors that fill its pages, the most remarkable thing about this work is the author's mastery of her trade. Intensive research and perhaps the most skillful use of primary sources that I've ever encountered are balanced by Ms. Lovell's tact and graceful handling of her subject. She neither shies away from nor sensationalizes the intrigues, betrayals, heartbreaks and triumphs of Amelia and her husband George Palmer Putnam. Her judicious tone carries throughout the book, bringing these and other historic celebrities to life in honest and very human terms.

I was continuously astonished by how little I actually knew about this aviatrix who has been a household name since decades before I was born. I was just as appalled by the number of commonly accepted "facts" that were nothing more speculation, rumor, bitter lies spread by opponents or the result of carefully crafted publicity campaigns.

Perhaps one of most impressive aspects of this work was the author's ability to keep people and events grounded in the greater framework of the national and international events unfolding around them. Readers follow Amelia and her contemporaries not only through both world wars and the Depression, but through the technological and avian advances occurring in leaps and bounds around them, actively shaping and reshaping their lives and adventures.

I have never been one to follow an author, but Ms. Lovell may start in me that habit! I highly recommend this work, even if you have little specific interest in aviation. With the mentions that Amelia Earhart continues to receive even now, you will find plenty to rivet your attention here.

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