Saturday, August 22, 2015

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Raised in colonial Kenya on her father’s ranch, deserted by her mother as a child, Beryl Markham has grown up like the land around her - strong, beautiful, and indomitable.  Seeking freedom from a loveless marriage, Beryl thrusts herself headfirst into horse training, finding a natural ability with the animals that soon defines her as not only the first female trainer in Kenya, but as a success.

As her fame (and infamy) spreads throughout the country she calls home, Beryl strains against the conventions of the European expat society - the Happy Valley set of the 1920’s and 1930’s - finding herself both desperate to find a place to belong and yet unwavering in her need for independence.  Until she meets Denys Finch Hatton, the rugged safari hunter who would be her life’s great love, and Karen Blixen, the future writer of Out of Africa, who would become both rival and friend.

In this extraordinary piece of historical fiction, McLain weaves a tale of three people whose lives were inextricably intertwined.  The story of Beryl Markham, who would later make history as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, is nuanced and authentic.  At it’s heart, it’s a story of survival and identity as much as it is about love.  The setting, which played such a prominent role in Markham’s story, fairly jumps off the page, with vivid details that perfectly set the scene.  Fans of The Paris Wife will surely enjoy this title, as will anyone in search of an engrossing read, or a piece of history from a lesser known point of view.

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