Reading guide for Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

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Circling the Sun

A Novel

by Paula McLain

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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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. At the beginning of the book, Beryl reflects that her father's farm in Njoro was "the one place in the world I'd been made for." Do you feel this is a fitting way to describe Beryl's relationship with Kenya, too? Did she seem more suited–more made for–life there than the others in her circle? Is there a place in your life that you would describe the same way?

  2. While it is clear he loved his daughter, do you feel Beryl's father was a good parent? Do you think Beryl would have said he was? Did you sympathize with him at any point?

  3. Beryl is forced to be independent from a very young age. How do you think this shaped her personality (for better or for worse)?

  4. After Jock's drunken attack, D fires Beryl and sends her away. Do you understand his decision? Despite all the philandering and indulgent behaviors of the community, do you feel it's fair that Beryl was being judged so harshly for the incident?

  5. How would you describe Beryl and Denys's relationship? In what ways are they similar souls? How does their first encounter–outside, under the stars at her coming out party–encapsulate the nature of their connection? 

  6. Karen and Beryl are two strong, iconoclastic women drawn to the same unobtainable man. Do you understand how Beryl could pursue Denys even though he was involved with Karen? Did you view the friendship between the women as a true one, despite its complications?

  7. Why do you believe the author chose the title Circling the Sun? Does it bring to mind a particular moment from the novel or an aspect of Beryl's character?

  8. When Beryl is quite young, she reflects that "softness and helplessness got you nothing in this place." Do you agree with her? Or do you think Beryl placed too much value on strength and independence?

  9. When Beryl becomes a mother herself, she is determined not to act as her own mother did. Do you feel she succeeds? How does motherhood spur her decision to exchange horse training for flying? Could you identify with this choice?

  10. After Paddy the lion attacks Beryl, Bishon Singh says, "Perhaps you were never meant for him." Do you think that Beryl truly discovered what she was meant for by the end of the novel?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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