By: Paula McLain
Published: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Historical Fiction
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.
Favorite Quote: 
“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,
If you would like to purchase CIRCLING THE SUN, click the photo below:
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for review. I was not compensated in any way for this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 
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  1. bermudaonion on August 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I liked this book – I thought Markham's story was fascinating – but the middle of the book dragged for me. I think I'm in the minority on it though.

  2. Kate Unger on August 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Sounds interesting. The cover reminds me of Edith from Downton Abbey. 🙂

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