CIRCLING THE SUN
By: Paula McLain
Published: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books
CIRCLING THE SUN was one of the three books I took on vacation and read. I struggled between wanting to read more of the book and wanting to watch the scenery unfold outside my window. This fascinating story of Beryl Markham held my attention and I was anxious to read more about her on the internet once I finished this book. She was certainly a fascinating woman.
Beryl Markham was not a traditional 1920’s woman by anyone’s standards. She lived with her father in Kenya and spent her days around men and horses. Beryl eventually became the first woman racehorse trainer and later in her life, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. I had never heard of Beryl before McLain’s book, but that is what I love so much about historical fiction…learning about someone that contributed to our history and wasn’t in our school textbooks. Beryl’s friendships and passionate love triangle involved the well-known author of OUT OF AFRICA, Karen Blixen. Their stories mesh in CIRCLING THE SUN and give readers another prospective of Blixen as well.
Beryl Markham wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, question authority, or try something new. Her story begins as a young child living a good life in London with her family until her father gets an itch to move the family to Kenya and raise horses. Shortly after moving, Beryl’s mother decides she can’t take it and leaves with Beryl’s older brother. Beryl and her father begin building up the horse racing business and become quite successful. When Beryl is a teenager, there is a serious drought and her father is forced to sell his business and move. Beryl is left to marry a man she barely knows. Beryl struggles with being a suitable wife and community member along with wanting to continue to do the things she has done her whole life. This leads to much conflict and disapproval from her husband and society. Then she meets safari hunter Denys Finch Hatten and life changes for her. Scandel seems to find Beryl at every stage of her life, but is it because she is a woman who shirks societal norms or because she is causing trouble? She is definitely a complicated woman who will leave the reader guessing on every page.
McLain has written a well-researched and richly detailed story where the reader is swept away by the beautiful African scenery while you read. Beryl’s passion for life, horses, and Africa pulses from the pages of the book. There is much heartbreak for Beryl, but each trial seems to make her more resilient. McLain’s novel reads much like a memoir, even though it is a fictional account, and brings Beryl’s story to life. Beryl Markham is a ground-breaking woman from history who reminds us that we can accomplish anything we set our mind to do.
Side note: I loved the cover. It gave me a visual of Beryl in the African setting.
"Oh." It seemed I'd surprised him. "There isn't a lot of that kind of thinking around here."
"Of course there is," I told him, trying to draw a smile. "It's just usually a man who's doing it."
|Paula McLain - source|
Paula McLain is the author of the novels THE PARIS WIFE and A TICKET TO RIDE as well as the memoir, LIKE FAMILY: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, and two collections of poetry. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Cleveland with her family. For more visit her website, http://paulamclain.com/.
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