Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes
First Published: 2015
Growing up a tomboy on her father’s Kenyan estate, Beryl Markham has always shunned the traditional limitations placed on women. Blazing a trail as both a renowned horse trainer and a female pilot, she was the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America. Circling the Sun details the tempestuous life of a fierce woman, from her wild childhood to her series of failed relationships as she struggles against society’s conventions.
I have mixed feelings about McLain’s historical novel based on the life of Beryl Markham. I loved the first half detailing 1920s Kenya and Beryl’s unconventional childhood. The painful transition as Beryl grew older and the world tried to tame her would make a great book club discussion. However, the entire second half of the book was entirely about a series of doomed love affairs, with a little horse racing mixed in. And just so you know, expect to hear more about horses than airplanes, since flying doesn’t enter the story until the last fifteen pages or so.
This powerful novel transports readers to the breathtaking world of Out of Africa—1920s Kenya—and reveals the extraordinary adventures of Beryl Markham, a woman before her time. Brought to Kenya from England by pioneering parents dreaming of a new life on an African farm, Beryl is raised unconventionally, developing a fierce will and a love of all things wild. But after everything she knows and trusts dissolves, headstrong young Beryl is flung into a string of disastrous relationships, then becomes caught up in a passionate love triangle with the irresistible safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and the writer Baroness Karen Blixen. Brave and audacious and contradictory, Beryl will risk everything to have Denys’s love, but it’s ultimately her own heart she must conquer to embrace her true calling and her destiny: to fly.
Quotes from Circling the Sun
We’re all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren’t your own person at all—are you? The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy.
Sometimes when you’re hurting, it helps to throw yourself at something that will take your weight.
We can only go to the limits of ourselves. Anything more and we give too much away. Then we’re not good for anyone.
I’ve sometimes thought that being loved a little less than others can actually make a person, rather than ruin them.
About Paula McLain
Paula McLain is the bestselling author of the novels Love and Ruin, When the Stars Go Dark, Circling the Sun, The Paris Wife, and A Ticket to Ride, the memoir Like Family, and two collections of poetry. She currently lives in Ohio. Visit the author’s website →