cover image East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart

East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart

Susan Butler. Da Capo Press, $27.5 (512pp) ISBN 978-0-201-31144-0

By dying while still glamorous, the 40-year-old Amelia Earhart clinched her membership in the exclusive club of American icons. She certainly deserved it, more so perhaps than some of her fellow members: in addition to her record-breaking career as a pilot, she was a powerful advocate of women's rights (inspiring even Eleanor Roosevelt), a dedicated social worker, an airline founder, a lecturer at Purdue, a writer and even a fashion designer. As freelance financial journalist Butler's new biography demonstrates, Earhart had a tendency to dazzle all who came in contact with her. Unfortunately, Butler herself is so starstruck that what should be a compelling story becomes an effort for readers to get through. Her pedestrian and cliche-ridden prose (""She drove a car like a bat out of hell"") occasionally turns comic (""People flowed through the house in a steady trickle, growing heavier on weekends""). And Butler's fascination with Amelia's dress sense quickly grows tedious: ""Her hair blew in the breeze above a bronze and yellow silk scarf draped around her neck; her short-sleeved tan silk jersey shirt matched the color of her jodhpurs."" Nevertheless, the sheer historical thrill of her disappearance over the Pacific in 1937, with the final, chilling radio transmission--""We are now running north and south""--makes for some excitement. (Nov.)