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Good Literature for Children & Adults

Circling The Sun by Paula McLain


Looking for a book you can’t put down – look no further than Circling The Sun by Paula McLain.

Circling The Sun is the eagerly awaited new novel by the author of the best selling The Paris Wife.

The Paris Wife was the story of Hadley Hemingway and her famous husband early in his career. I found him a less than likable character, and her rather uninteresting – but this new novel is dynamite.

Circling the Sun is about Beryl Markham who was the first woman to succeed in flying a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, a feat she wrote about in West With the Night, a book that is happily still in print and one you’ll want to read when you have finished Paula McLain’s novel. You will also want to read Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, who was a close friend of Beryl Markham and wrote a fascinating book of her own.

The novel begins with a prologue, in September 1936 as Beryl Markham begins her trans-Atlantic flight, but quickly goes back to an earlier time.

In 1904 Beryl’s parents arrived in Kenya to establish a horse farm. Her mother, however, does not last the course and returns to England with her young son, leaving Beryl in the care of her father. Beryl’s playmates are the native children who live nearby, the wilderness her playground. She is forced to go to school when she is a young teenager, but her formal education does not last long. She soon returns to the farm, becoming as skilled a horse trainer as her father.

The farm, however, fails and other choices are sadly made. Beryl marries, becoming a very young and unskilled wife, before finding her own place in the world. She qualifies as the first female professional horse trainer in Africa.

Kenya, at this time, was a destination for many looking for a new life after the First World War. The second sons of the British Aristocracy, and those simply wanting to live an adventurous life arrived in this distant British colony. Young men, including the royal princes, David (who later abdicated) and his brother Henry, added to the glamour of the time and place.

Karen Blixen was among many of these ex-pats, her husband a Scandinavian Baron – her lover for many years was also the man Beryl Markham loved. A love that lasted the lifetimes of all three. 

Life was lived large, each day brought hard work in an extreme environment. Danger was part of everyday life. Affairs were commonplace and quite acceptable as long as they were discreet and no one was humiliated or embarrassed.

Beryl Markham and her circle lived fascinating lives in a place that provided adventure and excitement – and Paula McLain has written a brilliant novel capturing it all.

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