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Circling the Sun

A Novel

by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain X
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2016, 400 pages

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Achieve heights
Beryl Markham was a pioneer feminist. During her life, she reflected the challenges women face in a patriarchal society. Her behaviors of rebellion of the culture of the time led to remarkable adventures in life. She was not successful in all endeavors ... realistic!
Irving Presser

CIRCLING THE SUN
In the tradition of Out Of Africa and West With The Night, Paula Mclain has written an outstanding book about Beryl Markham. It is truly a superb book.
Many people know the name Amelia Earhart but many do not know the British aviatrix Berry Markham. Not only do you learn about Beryl Markham, but you get
a great sense of the land and beauty of Africa. Its like reading National Geographic! Paula Mclain has written a superb book that should be read by everyone.
Pam S. (Wellesley, MA)

A breathless adventure
This was one of those books that you can't stop reading. Beryl Markham was an amazing woman whose fierce independence and bravery predated the woman's movement by more than half a century. Her story, as told by Paula McLain, was both poignant and empowering. The setting in the world of colonial Africa in the 1920s was fascinating.


Beryl's family moves to Kenya when she is a young child when her father seeks to restart his life through farming and training horses. Her mother cannot tolerate the difficult life style and returns to England leaving her 4 year old daughter bereft. Beryl learns to survive through her friendship with local native people, particularly a young boy, and through helping her father with the horses. As she matures, she is something of a "wild child." Her father's farm fails and she is married off at 17 to a local farmer. She chafes at the life of a farmer's wife and eventually chooses to find her own life as a horse trainer at a time when this was a profession for men only. Her true love is her homeland Kenya and the adventures and people described in the book make for an exciting story. The book was well crafted but I was so sorry to see it end that I look forward to reading Markham's own memoir West with the Night and that of Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa,. Dinesen, the pen name of Karen Blixen, along with her lover and partner, Denys Finch Hatton plays a large part in Beryl's life and story. This is an excellent adventure/ romance /historical novel.
Carolyn L. (Summerville, SC)

Circling the Sun
I enjoyed this well-written, fictional account of the early life of Beryl Markham. She was certainly a strong, independent woman, a survivor, as she struggled to find happiness in a male-dominated, 1920s Africa. Paula McLain brings Kenya to life, and presents quite an interesting cast of characters. I can't say I admired many of the idle rich, whose days seemed to be taken up with gossip, alcohol, drugs, and loose sexual mores. They brought to mind Hemingway's crowd in The Paris Wife. But Beryl was a hard worker, not afraid to try new things, who had quite a few highs and lows, not always of her own making. This novel should engender some good book club discussion.
Sue Ellen S. (Cedar Falls, IA)

Circling the Sun
I jumped at the chance to receive this book for review. I very much enjoyed THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain and OUT OF AFRICA, the movie with Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen and Robert Redford as Denys Finch Hatton. This book by McLain focuses on Beryl Markham, whose life in Kenya intersects with the lives of Karen and Denys. When she sets her sights on Denys, an inevitable, awkward love triangle results. I found McLain's portrayal of her fascinating. Why, I wondered, had I never heard of this woman who accomplished so much? She was a fearless adventurer, a woman ahead of her time as a trainer of race horses and an aviatrix. Success and scandal—it's all here in this portrayal of a woman who "charged headlong into the world even—or especially—when it hurt to do so."
Patricia K. (Oak Park, CA)

Circling the Sun
Being a fan of the Paris Wife, I was eager to read this book, and it did not disappoint. The story of Beryl Markam's life in Kenya during the 1920s was fascinating. The ties with Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, made it seem like an extension of Out of Africa. I loved the strength and conflict of Beryl's life, I found the book hard to put down.
Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)

Circling the Sun
Beryl Markham lived remarkably and fully. Her childhood was idyllic, if you like horses, the outdoors, nature, and the freedom to do anything, despite the urgings of female teachers and a school to become "a lady." She spent most of her life in colonial Kenya, before and after its independence. Before she became a pilot, she was a horse trainer and breeder, well known in those circles for her determination and skill in winning races. In the prologue, she refers to flying;'The instincts for flying are in my hands....I'm meant...to stitch my name on the sky with this propeller, these lacquered line wings...." Paula McLain, writing this historical novel in first person, takes us into Kenya, in language that evokes mood and takes the reader into Beryl's mind and emotions. Beryl wrote her own autobiography, West with the Night; she was integral part of Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, being part of a triangle with Dinesen and adventurer Denys Finch Hatton. McLain's book is an excellent read, invoking a time we'll not see again and a character worth admiration.
Amy G. (Bowie, MD)

Beryl Markham. Early settler of Colonial Africa…aviatrix… race horse trainer?
I must admit that I have read other books about Beryl Markam. Paula McLain's Circling the Sun is a unique novel in scope and perspective, as it introduces the reader to an early part of Markam's life experiences in Africa during the Victoria occupation of that region.

Who knew of the turmoil she faced as a small child, or her jaded attempt to reenter London's Victorian culture as a young adult? Her gift with horses was astounding aspect of her life that many are unaware of Circling the Sun is a refreshing account of the life of an incredibly talented and adept woman, who faced the challenges pitted against her in foreign county and was still able to live her life to the fullest.

I would recommend Circling the Sun to any reader interested in strong female characters, sweeping descriptions of beautiful African vistas, horses, or anyone who has succeed and failed and still able to retain their dignity until the end of their life.

Beyond the Book:
  A Glimpse of Beryl Markham

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