Circling the Sun

McLain, Paula

Published by Bond Street Books
ISBN 10: 0385677219 / ISBN 13: 9780385677219
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Synopsis: Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife, takes readers to Kenya in the 1920s, where the beautiful young horse trainer, adventurer and aviator Beryl Markham tells the story of her life among the glamorous and decadent circle of British expats living in colonial East Africa--and the complicated love triangle she shared with the white hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa.
    Brought to Kenya as a small child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised both by her father--a racehorse trainer--and the native Kipsigis tribe on her father's land. Her unconventional upbringing transforms her into a daring young woman, with a love of all things wild, but everything she knows and trusts dissolves when her father's farm goes bankrupt. Reeling from the scandal and heartbreak, Beryl is catapulted into a disastrous marriage at the age of 16. Finally she makes the courageous decision to break free, forging her own path as a horse trainer and shocking high society in the process. The British colony has never seen a woman as determined and fiery as Beryl. Before long, she catches the eye of the fascinating and bohemian Happy Valley set, including writer Karen Blixen and her lover Denys Finch Hatton, who will later be immortalized in Blixen's memoir, Out of Africa. The three become embroiled in a complex triangle that changes the course of Beryl's life, setting tragedy in motion while awakening her to her truest self and her fate: to fly.

Review:

An Amazon Best Book of July 2015: Sometimes a reader craves a good, old-fashioned yarn. This much anticipated novel from the author of The Paris Wife is exactly that: an engrossing story of love and adventure in colonial Africa, complete with gorgeous landscape, dissolute British ex-pats, and lots of derring-do with horses, motorcars and airplanes. That it is also the best kind of contemporary historical novel ? the kind that teaches you something about the real people and events of the time ? is a bonus. At the center of the novel is Beryl Markham (born ? you gotta love it ? Clutterbuck), the headstrong daughter of a British colonial who grew up more comfortable among the people and animals of her adopted Kenya than in the homes of its landed gentry. When Beryl?s mother leaves the family and her father gives up the farm, she marries (at 16) a gentleman farmer, a drunk too louche to be much of a husband. Like privileged but love-hungry teenage girls past and future, Beryl seeks companionship from her horses, becoming the first and greatest female horse trainer in the region. Along the way, she hobnobs with Kenyan high society, including, but not limited to, Karen Blixen (who authored her own epic story, Out of Africa, under the pen name Isaak Dinesen) and her lover Denys Finch Hatten (who will always be Robert Redford to those of us who watched him play the role in the movie version of Dinesen?s book.) Much bed-hopping and relationship-boundary-pushing ensue, with all the teeth-gnashing and yearning that goes along with it, no matter the era. Those who knew about Markham before reading this book may be surprised by how little there is about her as a pilot. She is, after all, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from east to west, and she wrote her own memoir, 1942?s West with the Night; here, it is only in the book?s frame ? a prologue and its final chapter ? that we get a glimpse of the way that Beryl will, literally, soar. But McLain doesn?t seem interested in portraying her as a trailblazing feminist with an idea about changing the world; the Beryl Markham here is noteworthy precisely because she is NOT those things so much as a girl who grew up pushing back against conventions that got in her way. ?But you?ve never been afraid of anything, have you?? Finch Hatten says to her in their last meeting. ?I have, though,? she replies. ?I?ve been terrified. . .I just haven?t let that stop me.? -- Sara Nelson

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Title: Circling the Sun
Publisher: Bond Street Books
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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