I am lucky to live in a town with an amazing public library. Even more wonderful is the fact that each year our library hosts a luncheon that features a well-known, talented writer. This year, we met Paula McLain. I was already a fan. Having read one of her previous novels, The Paris Wife, I eagerly picked Circling the Sun from NetGalley. But then, I had second thoughts. Not about reading the book, but about when I would read it. I think this was my 14th luncheon, and I have learned a thing or two from them — most important that sometimes, authors provide information about the book that I would like to know before I read it; things that add to my reading experience, that give certain parts more meaning or depth. And so I waited.
McLain explained her personal story, and how she came, finally, to write about Beryl Markham. I had already read West with the Night, so I understood her initial attraction. Similarities in her childhood gave her a personal connection to the story, and I remembered this when I read the book myself.
This is a girl-power book for future (or current) flyers; that would nicely accompany others I’ve read this summer, including Gone to Soldiers, and The Flying Circus. It is an amazing story of courage and of reinvention, of love and loss and second chances. It is not a great story for motherhood, but Markham’s poor excuse for a mother probably helped shape her more by her absence than her presence. Markham was driven, in a time when women were not supposed to be. She lived her life by the rules that guided the men of her generation, and she held no regard for the notion of a woman’s proper place. She had a knack for making the impossible possible, and, despite some debilitating setbacks, she never gave up.
I shouldn’t have to say any more about this book. Just read it. You will not be disappointed.