Monday, February 8, 2016
Book Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Author: Paula McLain
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Digital Copy
Content Alert: sex
Based on the life of real-life aviatrix Beryl Markham, Circling the Sun opens with her pioneering trip across the Atlantic from Europe to North America (the hard way, where the winds weren't favorable), yet the book isn't about her career in aviation at all. Rather, the book focuses on the early years of her life, growing up in Kenya with her father (after her mother returned to England with her brother), carving out a career as a successful jockey, and negotiating romantic and business relationships with men.
McLain has a lovely command of the English language (she has an MFA in poetry, and it shows), and uses it to show the conflicts within Beryl-- her restlessness, her desire to be free like the Kipsigis boy she grew up with, and wild like the horses she struggles to tame. The story also makes Kenya come alive and thrum with romance (Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa, appears in Circling the Sun as the third point in a love triangle with Beryl and Denys Finch-Hatton). I wonder if McLain romanticizes Markham at all-- she seems entirely sympathetic to some difficult choices she makes (particularly leaving her only child with his grandparents) and seems to gloss over an affair she had with Prince Henry during the period. All in all, an interesting, if somewhat simplified portrayal of someone who appears to have been an even more interesting and complex person in real life.