Genre: Adult/Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 366
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Beryl Markham was the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic from east to west in 1932. She also spent most of her life living in Kenya and trained prize winning horses. She defied gender expectations and got herself in a lot of trouble because of it. She was unlucky in love and passionate throughout her life, and McLain captures it all in this fiction retelling of her childhood to young adult life.
So when I reviewed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, I did a five reasons to read format and I thought it worked really well, and I think that format will work really well for this novel as well. So here are five reasons you should read Circling the Sun:
1. Beryl Markham is a real and accomplished woman. I picked up this book because I had read McLain's The Paris Wife about Hemingway's first wife Hadley and loved it. I knew it had something to do with the movie Out of Africa which I had never seen but that was it. I had never heard of Beryl before, and I'm so glad that this novel introduced me to her. She was a courageous and accomplished woman that deserves her spot in history. I plan on watching the movie soon, but since the movie follows another female character in the book, I'm not sure if Beryl will be portrayed in a positive light (Beryl appears as Felicity in the movie). Beryl trained prize winning race horses, taking after her father, and lived most of her life in Kenya. She then took up flying and was the first female (and human in general) to cross the Atlantic solo from east to west.
2. McLain does an excellent job of bringing real people of the past to life. In both of McLain's novels, the characters feel so real. You forget that this is just a fictionalized account of these lives and not the real character herself narrating for you. McLain's characters are accurate (as far as I'm aware) and complicated. She does an excellent job of picking women from history with amazing stories to tell, and telling them in a way that sucks you in and consumes you.
3. The African backdrop is beautifully created. After finishing this book I wanted to read every novel set in Africa I could get my hands on. The backdrop of early 1900's Africa was beautiful and complicated. The beautiful scenery clashed with the trouble of colonization and modernization in a really interesting way.
4. This is the other side of the story in Out of Africa. While I have not seen this one yet (I plan on watching it soon though now that I have read this!) I know a lot of people love this book/movie. The movie centers around Karen Blixen the author of Out of Africa and Karen Blixen plays a large role in this novel. I am happy that I read this before seeing the movie, and I would love to read Out of Africa before seeing the movie to get the full experience of all of the characters.
5. You follow Beryl from childhood to mid-adult years and get to see so much character development and growth. While I did feel that some of the parts of Beryl's life were skimmed over or rushed, I loved seeing her growth and motivations. She was real, her relationships were real, and the respect I feel for her is real.
Markham also wrote her own account of her life titled West with the Night which I am interested in picking up now. The reviews of this that I have seen have all been positive, and I would love to hear her story in her own words as it is quite a remarkable story. I highly recommend both of McLain's novel that I have read; she is an auto-buy author for me.