Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
A Novel

84%

27 Critic Reviews

McLain’s rendition of Markham as a flapper with a penchant for adventure is exasperating, but nothing beats her heroine’s attitude toward Kenya...
-NY Times

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, BOOKPAGE, AND SHELF AWARENESS  “Paula McLain is considered the new star of historical fiction, and for good reason. Fans of The Paris Wife will be captivated by Circling the Sun, which . . . is both beautifully written and utterly engrossing.”—Ann Patchett, Country Living

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.

Praise for Circling the Sun

“In McLain’s confident hands, Beryl Markham crackles to life, and we readers truly understand what made a woman so far ahead of her time believe she had the power to soar.”—Jodi Picoult, author of Leaving Time

“Enchanting . . . a worthy heir to [Isak] Dinesen . . . Like Africa as it’s so gorgeously depicted here, this novel will never let you go.”—The Boston Globe

“Famed aviator Beryl Markham is a novelist’s dream. . . . [A] wonderful portrait of a complex woman who lived—defiantly—on her own terms.”—People (Book of the Week)

Circling the Sun soars.”—Newsday

“Captivating . . . [an] irresistible novel.”—The Seattle Times

“Like its high-flying subject, Circling the Sun is audacious and glamorous and hard not to be drawn in by. Beryl Markham may have married more than once, but she was nobody’s wife.”—Entertainment Weekly

“[An] eloquent evocation of Beryl’s daring life.”—O: The Oprah Magazine

“Markham’s life is the stuff of legend. . . . McLain has created a voice that is lush and intricate to evoke a character who is enviably brave and independent.”NPR

“Bold, absorbing fiction.”—New York Daily News

“Paula McLain has such a gift for bringing characters to life. I loved discovering the singular Beryl Markham, with all her strengths and passions and complexities.”—Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You




From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Paula McLain

See more books from this Author
Paula McLain received her M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Michigan and has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of two collections of poetry; a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses; and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives in Cleveland with her family.
 
Published July 28, 2015 by Ballantine Books. 363 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Romance. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 16 2015
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Weeks as Bestseller
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Circling the Sun
All: 27 | Positive: 25 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 07 2015

Ernest Hemingway, who met Markham on safari two years before her Atlantic crossing, tagged her as “a high-grade bitch” but proclaimed her 1942 memoir West with the Night “bloody wonderful.” Readers might even say the same of McLain’s sparkling prose and sympathetic reimagining.

Read Full Review of Circling the Sun: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 12 2015

Markham's true life was incredibly adventurous, and it's easy for readers to identify with this woman who refused to be pigeonholed by her gender. Readers will enjoy taking in the rich world McLain has created.

Read Full Review of Circling the Sun: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 12 2015

McLain paints an intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants. Markham's true life was incredibly adventurous, and it's easy for readers to identify with this woman who refused to be pigeonholed by her gender.

Read Full Review of Circling the Sun: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Alexandra Fuller on Jul 31 2015

McLain’s rendition of Markham as a flapper with a penchant for adventure is exasperating, but nothing beats her heroine’s attitude toward Kenya...

Read Full Review of Circling the Sun: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Jean Zimmerman on Jul 28 2015

Paula McLain has created a voice that is lush and intricate to evoke a character who is enviably brave and independent.

Read Full Review of Circling the Sun: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

Book Reporter

Above average
Reviewed by Katherine B. Weissman on Jul 29 2015

...she faced tremendously skewed odds in attempting to be the first of her gender to enter the predominantly male worlds of horse training and aviation. I hope, for her, that the risks were worth it. I hope, too, that CIRCLING THE SUN will lead readers to Markham’s own book (Hemingway himself praised it).

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RT Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Kathe Robin on Jun 12 2015

Some may find her unsympathetic, while others will be intrigued. McLain will make you believe every word she writes is true.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Leah Greenblatt on Jul 30 2015

Like its high-flying subject, Sun is audacious and glamorous and hard not to be drawn in by. Beryl Markham may have married more than once, but she was nobody’s wife.

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The Independent

Above average
Reviewed by Julie Mcdowall on Aug 22 2015

However, the novel was pleasingly dense. I’d feared a slight book, but, instead, it was intricate and ambitious, with a huge cast of characters and luscious descriptions. Indeed, the novel may have been rather too ambitious, as it quickens towards the end, as though the author ran out of space.

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Donna Seaman on Jun 01 2015

McLain sustains a momentum as swift and heart-pounding as one of Beryl’s prize horses at a gallop as she focuses on the romance, glamour, and drama of Beryl’s blazing life, creating a seductive work of popular historical fiction with sure-fire bio-pic potential.

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Dallas News

Good
Reviewed by JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS on Aug 07 2015

McLain skillfully succeeds in portraying the inner life of a singular figure, painted vividly against a vast continent that was the only place Beryl Markham could ever belong.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Jocelyn McClurg on Aug 01 2015

Part highfalutin romance novel, part women’s book-group discussion bait, Circling the Sun accomplishes one worthy feat: It shines a bright light on an intriguing woman who has hidden in the shadows.

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Express

Good
Reviewed by EITHNE FARRY on Aug 16 2015

McLain has created a mesmerising portrait of an inspiring woman who was determined to live life on her own terms. It is brimful of dazzling images celebrating the landscape that captured the heart of the adventurous Beryl Markham.

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The Columbus Dispatch

Above average
Reviewed by Margaret Quamme on Aug 02 2015

Beryl, however, is an engaging presence as she fiercely muddles through life, finding her way as she bumps against obstacle after obstacle — many of her own creation.

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Newsday

Above average
Reviewed by Tom Beer on Jul 24 2015

Occasionally the narrative veers into sudsiness, but Markham's voice, expertly channeled, and McLain's fluent prose keep the novel on course. At its best, "Circling the Sun" soars.

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We Love This Book

Above average
Reviewed by Lucy Rock on Aug 26 2015

This novel still feels slightly unbalanced at times; the pivotal role that aviation plays in the lives of Markham and those she loves appearing as a parenthesis around the main narrative. However this is a narrative that reflects the mood and fancies of colonial society at the time.

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The Best Reviews

Excellent
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on Jul 30 2015

Circling the Sun: A Novel is beautifully crafted writing that far exceeds the writing in her previous novel, A Paris Wife. This is very special historical fiction at its best and perceptive readers who want more than just stereotypical stories are in for a fine treat/read! Highly recommended!

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The Miami Herald

Good
Reviewed by LAURA ALBRITTON on Jul 24 2015

McLain succeeds in bringing the past to life, and by the last pages, readers will hate to say goodbye to such an irresistible narrator.

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NY Daily News

Good
Reviewed by Sherryl Connelly on Jul 19 2015

...in “Circling the Sun” Markham finally gets the treatment she deserves. That it also makes for bold, absorbing fiction is so much the better. No complaints here.

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Bookin With Sunny.

Good
Reviewed by Ann Ronald on Apr 28 2015

The reader vic­ar­i­ously breathes and suffers and cel­e­brates with McLain’s char­acters, making this astute novel into some­thing very special.

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https://www.bostonglobe.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Mameve Medwed on Jul 23 2015

What’s certain is that the reluctantly earthbound armchair reader will cherish this gift for the hidden adventurer in all of us. Like Africa as it’s so gorgeously depicted here, this novel will never let you go.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on Aug 11 2015

Markham's live was never easy but it was a full life full of passion and reward. McLain does a wonderful job of bringing it all to life and show readers what it means to be a survivor against all odds.

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https://mauriceonbooks.wordpress.com

Excellent
Reviewed by lomaurice on Jul 20 2015

I have been privileged to be a first reader of this magnificent story, told with artful prose and presenting us with sparkling characters. You need to stop whatever you’re doing, and run to buy this book.!

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Sincerely Stacie

Excellent
Reviewed by STACIE on Aug 04 2015

McLain has written a well-researched and richly detailed story where the reader is swept away by the beautiful African scenery while you read.

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https://drbethnolan.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by DRBETHNOLAN on Jul 18 2015

I loved McLain’s earlier work, THE PARIS WIFE, and loved this novel, too. These characters came alive and are still with me, weeks after I finished the novel. They are so interesting – so real – so human. Don’t miss this one.

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http://www.dailyuw.com

Good
Reviewed by Rhea Panela on Jul 28 2015

This book is a great choice for anyone interested in history and strong female characters. Although some parts are works of fiction, McLain’s fluid and poetic writing brings Beryl’s story and Kenyan colonial history to life.

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http://dolcebellezza.net

Excellent
on Apr 17 2015

Circling the Sun has brought Beryl Markham to life and made Africa such a vibrant place you can see why those who loved it had to reside there. Just as The Paris Wife, this is historical fiction of remarkable power.

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Reader Rating for Circling the Sun
85%

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