Circling The Sun

Circling The Sun   Paula McLain    Pages: 355   Published: 2015

The book: In 1936, Beryl Markham became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She was not only an aviation pioneer, but also a successful horse trainer, one of the first bush pilots, and an author. Born in England, she grew up in Kenya and led a non-conformist life that was often plagued by scandal. This is a fictionalized account of her life. 

You might like it because: Beryl Markham was an amazing woman who broke many boundaries to do things traditionally reserved for men. McLain does a marvelous job of bringing her extraordinary life into focus and creating a vivid picture of colonial Kenya in the 1920s and 30s.

What did other people say?
“As chronicled in Paula McLain’s richly textured new novel, Circling the Sun, Beryl Markham’s life is the stuff of legend. . . . McLain has created a voice that is lush and intricate to evoke a character who is enviably brave and independent.” – NPR.Org

“Paula McLain brings Beryl to glorious life, portraying a woman with a great many flaws that seem to result from her zest for life and inability to follow the roles expected of women in the 1920s and ’30s.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Awards & Recognition:
#1 New York Times Best Seller

How quickly will you get into the book? The first line did it for me, and there was no going back after I got to the bottom of the first page.

You might not like it because: The story creates a skewed picture of Kenya, with black Kenyans only featuring on the fringes of the story in stereotypes some readers may find familiar. Then again, in her adult life, Markham inhabited an expat world often cut off from the reality of the rest of the country.

At times, Markham is not that likeable a character. However, to be extraordinary, maybe one needs to be self-centered, or perhaps being self-centered is what allows one to be extraordinary.

What might you read next?
Beryl Markham and Karen Blixen (who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen), knew each other and shared a lover, Denys Finch Hatton. Read Karen Blixen’s account of her life in Kenya in Out of Africa. Interestingly, Markham is never mentioned in the book.

Or, you could read West with the Night, Markham’s own account of her life.

Rather than a European expat’s perspective on Africa, get an African expat’s perspective on the USA. Read Behold the Dreamers  by Imbolo Mbue.

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