Cover image for
Title:
Circling the sun : a novel
Author(s):
McLain, Paula.
ISBN/ISSN:
9780345534187

0345534182
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
366 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Geographic Term:
Pub Date:
Ballantine Books, [2015]
Holds:

Available:*

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Summary

Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "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

"Paula McLain cements herself as the writer of historical fictional memoir with Circling the Sun , giving vivid voice to Beryl Markham, a singular, extraordinary woman. In McLain's confident hands, Markham crackles to life." --Jodi Picoult, author of Leaving Time

"Enchanting . . . A worthy heir to Dinesen, McLain will keep you from eating, sleeping, or checking your e-mail--though you might put these pages down just long enough to order airplane tickets to Nairobi. . . . Like Africa as it's so gorgeously depicted here, this novel will never let you go." -- The Boston Globe

"Richly textured . . . McLain has created a voice that is lush and intricate to evoke a character who is enviably brave and independent." --NPR

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

"Markham is a novelist's dream. . . . McLain riffs on the facts, creating a wonderful portrait of a complex woman who lived--defiantly--on her own terms." -- People (book of the week)

"Paula McLain has such a gift for bringing characters to life. I loved discovering the singular Beryl Markham, a rebel in her own time, and a heroine for ours." --Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You

"McLain's eloquent evocation of Beryl's daring life reminds us that independent women have always been among us, moving at their own speed." -- O: The Oprah Magazine


Author Notes

Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System and moved in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. She received a MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996. She is the author of two collections of poetry entitled Less of Her and Stumble, Gorgeous and a memoir entitled Like Family: Growing up in Other People's Houses. She has also written several novels including A Ticket to Ride, The Paris Wife, and Circling the Sun. She has published individual poems and essays in numerous journals including the Gettysburg Review, Antioch Review, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

McLain's (The Paris Wife) latest showcases her immersive command of setting and character, fictionalizing the exploits of real-life aviator and author Beryl Markham in British Kenya in the early 20th century. Beryl marries young when her father's fortunes fall, but is determined to strike out independently as a horse trainer, even though there are no female horse trainers and she's only in her late teens. She succeeds, though her marriage suffers, and finds herself drawn into a love triangle with famed hunter Denys Finch Hatton and writer Karen Blixen. While her successes in the horse-racing business increase, the scandal around her makes her flee to England for a while. Upon her return to Kenya, her need for freedom has further personal consequences, but also leaves her as the first professional female pilot in the world at a time when flying was exceptionally dangerous, and a record-setter for crossing the Atlantic. 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. Readers will enjoy taking in the rich world McLain has created. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* McLain brought Hadley Richardson Hemingway to light with her best-selling novel, The Paris Wife (2011). Bravo to her for now fictionalizing the grandly adventurous, passionate, and scandalous life of British East African Beryl Markham, the first licensed woman horse trainer and breeder on the continent and an intrepid, record-setting pilot. Ernest Hemingway knew and admired Markham and raved about her breathtaking autobiography, West with the Night (1942), which McLain selectively mines. We meet Beryl as a child abandoned by her mother and allowed to run free as her father raises Thoroughbreds. Fearless, curious, and strong, Beryl learns a warrior's skills with Kibii, a Kipsigis boy, and dreams of a life larger than the confines of domesticity. She resolutely finds her way to daredevilry and terror, love and ostracism as she undertakes the sort of risky and exhilarating things men do even as she suffers through disastrous marriages, homelessness, and a complicated and wrenching entanglement with coffee grower and writer Karen Blixen (i.e., Isak Dinesen of Out of Africa fame) and Denys Fitch Hatton, the exciting and elusive man they both love. 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.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Famed aviator and renowned racehorse trainer Beryl Markham is only one of the subjects of McLain's captivating new novel. The other is Kenya, the country that formed the complicated, independent woman whom Markham would become. Like her father who raised her, she falls under the spell of Kenya's lush valleys and distant mountains. Here she nurtures her affinity for animals in the wild and learns to breed and tame the most recalcitrant thoroughbreds. But when war and weather affect life at their farm in Ngoro, Beryl's father pressures the 16-year-old into marrying a much older, financially stable neighbor, setting in motion Markham's long history of fleeing the constraints of relationships that threaten her keen desire to live life on her own terms. Only on the back of a horse, at the wheel of a car, or, later, flying over her beloved -Africa does she feel fully alive and free. Drawing on Markham's own memoir, West with the Night, McLain vividly introduces this enigmatic woman to a new generation of readers. Verdict Fictional biography is a hot commodity right now (think Melanie Benjamin or Nancy Horan), and McLain's The Paris Wife was a book group darling. Expect nothing less for this intriguing window into the soul of a woman who refused to be tethered. [See Prepub Alert, 1/5/15.]-Sally -Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Before Kenya was Kenya, when it was millions of years old and yet still somehow new, the name belonged only to our most magnificent mountain. You could see it from our farm in Njoro, in the British East African Protectorate--hard edged at the far end of a stretching golden plain, its crown glazed with ice that never completely melted. Behind us, the Mau Forest was blue with strings of mist. Before us, the Rongai Valley sloped down and away, bordered on one side by the strange, high Menengai Crater, which the natives called the Mountain of God, and on the other by the distant Aberdare Range, rounded blue-grey hills that went smoky and purple at dusk before dissolving into the night sky. When we first arrived, in 1904, the farm wasn't anything but fifteen hundred acres of untouched bush and three weather-beaten huts. "This?" my mother said, the air around her humming and shimmering as if it were alive. "You sold everything for this?" "Other farmers are making a go of it in tougher places, Clara," my father said. "You're not a farmer, Charles!" she spat before bursting into tears. He was a horseman, in fact. What he knew was steeplechasing and foxhunting and the tame lanes and hedgerows of Rutland. But he'd seen paper flyers hawking cheap imperial land, and an idea had latched on to him that wouldn't let go. We left Westfield House, where I was born, and travelled seven thousand miles, past Tunis and Tripoli and Suez, the waves like great grey mountains swallowing the sky. Then through Kilindini Harbour, in the port of Mombasa, which smelled of sharp spices and drying fish, and onto the snaking train bound for Nairobi, the windows boiling over with red dust. I stared at everything, completely thrilled in a way I hadn't remembered feeling before. Whatever this place was, it was like nothing and nowhere else. We settled in and worked to make our situation liveable, pushing against the wildness while the wildness pushed back with everything it had. Our land had no visible borders or fences, and our huts lacked proper doors. Silky, banded colobus monkeys climbed through the burlap sacking covering our windows. Plumbing was unheard of. When nature called, you walked out into the night with all the things that wanted to have at you and hung your derrière over a long-drop, whistling to keep your fear away. Lady and Lord Delamere were our nearest white neighbours, a seven-mile hack through the bush. Their titles didn't save them from sleeping in the typical mud-and-thatch rondavels. Lady D kept a loaded revolver under her pillow and advised my mother to do the same--but she wouldn't. She didn't want to shoot snakes or her dinner. She didn't want to drag water for miles to have anything like a decent bath, or to live without company for months at a time. There was no society. There was no way to keep her hands clean. Life was simply too hard. After two years, my mother booked a passage back to England. My older brother, Dickie, would go too, since he had always been frail and wouldn't weather Africa for very much longer. I had yet to turn five when they climbed aboard the twice-weekly train to Nairobi with steamer trunks and handkerchiefs and travelling shoes. The white feather in my mother's helmet trembled as she kissed me, telling me I should keep my chin up. She knew I'd be fine, since I was such a big strong girl. As a treat, she would send a box of liquorice allsorts and pear drops from a shop in Piccadilly that I wouldn't have to share with a soul. I watched the train recede along the still black line of the track, not quite believing she would actually go. Even when the last shuddering car was swallowed up by distant yellow hills, and my father turned to me, ready to go back to the farm and his work; even then I thought the whole thing was a mistake, some terrible misunderstanding that would all get sorted at any moment. Mother and Dickie would disembark at the next station, or turn around at Nairobi and be back the next day. When that didn't happen, I kept waiting all the same, listening for the far-off rumble of the train, one eye on the horizon, my heart on tiptoe. For months there was no word from my mother, not even a dashed-off cable, and then the sweets arrived. The box was heavy and bore only my name-- Beryl Clutterbuck --in my mother's curlicued script. Even the shape of her handwriting, those familiar dips and loops, instantly had me in tears. I knew what the gift meant and couldn't fool myself any more. Scooping the box into my arms, I made off to a hidden corner where, trembling, I ate up as many of the sugar-dusted things as I could stand before retching into a stable bucket. Later, unable to drink the tea my father had made, I finally dared to say what I feared most. "Mother and Dickie aren't coming back, are they?" He gave me a pained look. "I don't know." "Perhaps she's waiting for us to come to her." There was a long silence, and then he allowed that she might be. "This is our home now," he said. "And I'm not ready to give up on it just yet. Are you?" My father was offering a choice, but it wasn't a simple one. His question wasn't Will you stay here with me? That decision had been made months before. What he wanted to know was if I could love this life as he did. If I could give my heart to this place, even if she never returned and I had no mother going forward, perhaps not ever. How could I begin to answer? All around us, half-empty cupboards reminded me of the things that used to be there but weren't any longer--four china teacups with gold-painted rims, a card game, amber beads clicking together on a necklace my mother had loved. Her absence was still so loud and so heavy, I ached with it, feeling hollow and lost. I didn't know how to forget my mother any more than my father knew how he might comfort me. He pulled me-- long limbed and a little dirty, as I always seemed to be--onto his lap, and we sat like that quietly for a while. From the edge of the forest, a group of hyraxes echoed shrieks of alarm. One of our greyhounds cocked a sleek ear and then settled back into his comfortable sleep by the fire. Finally my father sighed. He scooped me under my arms, grazed my drying tears with a quick kiss, and set me on my own two feet. Excerpted from Circling the Sun by Paula McLain All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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