Circling The Sun by Paula McLain….Review

circlingthesunI received an advanced copy of this book from Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House) through a Goodreads First Reads contest. It will begin sale on July 28, 2015.

Circling The Sun is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Beryl Markham, known in the same circles as Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. Beryl was conveniently left out of Karen’s (pen name Isak Dinesen) autobiographical Out of Africa, even though she was very much a part of Karen’s story. After reading Circling The Sun, I understand why Karen may have chosen to not include her.

Regardless, Circling The Sun stands completely on its own. I was quickly lost in the story, the pictures Paula’s words painted of 1920s Africa, Kenya, and the land Beryl considered home. Not fitting the role polite society of the time expected of her, Beryl remained true to herself at all costs, despite many losses and many scandals. Following her heart led her to become the first female licensed racehorse trainer, the first female to hold a professional pilot’s license, and the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic east to west. Unfortunately many of the same choices led her to loneliness and heartbreak, although she did have the pleasure of knowing one true love – if only for a little while.

The story is told from Beryl’s point of view and gives some insight to the loneliness, fear, and sometimes desperation she often felt when making decisions others saw as bravery and fearlessness.As I read this novel it bothered me a little that I did not become as emotionally vested in Beryl as I often do when I read something I enjoy as much as I did this book. But as I was finally brought to tears in the last few chapters, I realized it was not the writing, but Beryl herself who held everyone at a distance – including me as the reader.

This book took me on a beautiful, if heart wrenching, journey and I am pleased to have read it. It is added to my ‘keeper’ shelf and I am sure I will re-read in the future. (I will also be adding Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, and Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa to my ‘to read’ list.)

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