Print Review: Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun
By Paula McLain
Penguin Random House | Ballantine Books
Release Date: July 28, 2015
ISBN-13: ISBN 9780345534187

Circling the Sun is the story of Beryl Markham, an extraordinary Englishwoman who, abandoned as a child by her mother, ran wild and went native in the East Africa Protectorate; and who would go on and continue to defy efforts to mold her into a more conventional woman of the times. She was often beleaguered by the people in her life, suffering from social gossip and a series of failed relationships; but her obstinacy as a child evolved into a strength in determination as a young woman that would carry her from her personal failures to success as the first licensed horse trainer in the country as well as an accomplished aviator in the 1930s.

Paula McLain once again reminds us what it’s like to lost in another world when we open up a book. In Circling the Sun, McLain immerses the reader into what is now known as Kenya, a country rich with red soil, luscious jungle foliage, and awesome vistas of savannas. We are also witness to some of the vicissitudes of African life, including drought, racial discrimination, and inflation … all of which have both immediate and far-reaching consequences for its inhabitants. McLain deftly supplies the readers with the details that bring each scene to life: the kohl rimming a character’s eyes, the monogrammed lighter that flashes in the hands of a suitor, the thrum and stutter of an airplane’s engine as it makes for shore… However, despite setting realistic scenes, McLain’s writes of ghosts. The people of the Happy Valley set (which included Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton of ‘Out of Africa’ fame) are oddly portrayed without much depth or life. Just as McLain’s previous novel, The Paris Wife generated interest in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast, Circling the Sun serves as an appetizer for further reading (Isak Dineson’s Out of Africa and Beryl Markham’s West of the Night) and investigation. As one reads though the contemporary accounts or gazes at the photos though, one can’t help but be struck by how the verve and élan of these remarkable people seems to have been leeched out of the characters in the novel.

OTHER: I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Circling the Sun (by Paula McLain) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.