Before reading Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun, I wasn’t entirely familiar with who Beryl Markham was or what she did. Additionally, I was only vaguely familiar with the setting of Circling the Sun because of the movie, Out of Africa. Thus for those of you, who similar to me aren’t familiar with who Beryl Markham was, she was the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic from east to west. This in itself was an astonishing feat when you consider the time period she lived in on top of what the expected role of British women was during this era.
Though I never grew attached to or felt a connection to Beryl in the book, I did find her voice throughout the novel to have an authentic feel to it. The prose throughout the novel was breathtaking whether it was the descriptions of wildlife and nature or the descriptions of the feelings Beryl felt as she raced and trained horses and flew planes. Throughout it all, it felt as if I was right there beside her experiencing and witnessing all the events that the narrator was going through.
I suppose part of the reason the narrator’s voice in addition to the story in Circling the Sun felt incredibly authentic was probably for the reason that it was evident that the authour herself put an enormous amount of work and research into it. Having met and heard the authour speak with reference to her writing process, including how she travelled to Kenya to visit several of the sites that held a connection to Beryl Markham; it is obvious that this novel was a labour of love for her. Another interesting item was how the authour spoke on the subject of how she felt a connection to Beryl since both their moms left them when they were kids and came back into their lives when they were in their 20s.
Thus while Circling the Sun was an extremely well-written book, it wasn’t the book for me. As much as I adore historical fiction, I prefer novels that focus on character relationships. Circling the Sun however, appeared to focus more on Beryl’s career rather than her various relationships and romantic encounters which felt like they were glossed over to make Beryl the character to be a more likeable person than the real life Beryl had been. That being assumed, if you desire a historical read featuring a strong, independent woman you may consider picking up this book. And if you do decide to pick up this book, I’d also recommend you listen to the soundtrack to the Out of Africa movie as it truly adds to the reading experience.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.