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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Circling the Sun

ISBN: 9780345534187

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 7/28/2015

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa. Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships. Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly. Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

About the Author

Paula McLain is the author of the novels The Paris Wife and A Ticket to Ride, the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and two collections of poetry.

She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Cleveland with her family. Photo: © Nina Subin Read More

My Review

A special thank you to Random House, NetGalley, and LibraryThing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Love, the cover!

CIRCLING THE SUN by talented Paula McClain returns afterThe Paris Wife, with another sensational contemporary historical fiction of love and exotic adventures of Kenya, bringing characters to life, while blending fact and fiction.

Delivering an engrossing voice to ’20s aviator, Beryl Markham, a daring, and extraordinary woman of this exciting era! As much as Beryl loved horses, airplanes and affairs---she also had a deep love and affection for the land of Kenya, prominent throughout the novel.

Set in the 1920’s in Kenya, a stunning story of the beautiful, impetuous, and non-conformist, Beryl Markham, a British-born Kenyan aviator (one of the first bush pilots), an adventurer, racehorse trainer and author. During the pioneer days of aviation, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west in 1936, and the author of the memoirWest with the Night.

Born, into the Clutterbuck family in the village of Ashwell, in the county of Rutland, England, the daughter of Charles Baldwin, an accomplished horse trainer, and Clara Agnes, with an older brother Richard "Dickie". When she was four years old, her father moved the family to Kenya, which was then colonial British East Africa. He purchased a farm in Njoro near the Great Rift Valley from, and worked for Hugh Cholmondeley.

Although her mother disliked the isolation and promptly returned to England, Beryl stayed in Kenya with her father, where she spent an adventurous and rather wild childhood learning, playing, and hunting with the natives. On her family's farm, she developed a knowledge of and love for horses. As a young adult, she became the first licensed female horse trainer in Kenya.

Though marriages, tangled love affairs, complications, gossip, and scandal Markham continues to push boundaries. She befriended the Danish writer Karen Blixen during the years that Baroness Blixen was managing her family's coffee farm in the Ngong hills outside Nairobi. When Blixen's romantic connection with the hunter and pilot Denys Finch Hatton was winding down, Markham started her own affair with him.

I love strong women, with an eccentric flair; pushing boundaries—A trailblazer; complex, bold, rebellious and courageous heroine—with independence, passion, drive and turbulent love affairs! An engrossing story of an incredible woman who lived and triumphed over hardships and heart break, with gossip and scandal which surround her. Ultimately, a journey of self-discovery, a pioneer in primarily two male dominated fields.

McLain captivates you with a bold account and breathtaking views of Africa---bringing descriptive vivid settings and characters which jump off the page for a well-written and an absorbing read. (I adore books about books, and books about famous authors from former eras- fascinating and intriguing!)

Fans of the 1985 classic movie “Out of Africa” will enjoy the rivalry between Markham and author Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) over the affections of hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). If you have not read The Paris Wife,recommend, as well as CIRCLING THE SUN.

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