The new year is off to a great start for several reasons, one of which is all the time I’ve had lately to read! Three weeks into 2016 and I already have a handful of books under my belt. The sixth one has been the best one yet – and maybe the best one I’ve read in quite a while!
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain captured my interest and didn’t let go until I’d turned the last page…and even now, I’m still captivated by the story. McLain’s writing completely envelops you to the point where every sense sparks. I could picture it in my mind as clear as day and felt the characters becoming more real with every page.
McLain’s novel tells the story of Beryl Markham, a pioneer in horse training and aviation. She was raised in (and shaped by) Kenya and all that it offers: wildness, adventure, and dreams. Her story takes place primarily in the 1920s in a society with its own twists and turns. Beryl faces trials not only professionally but also personally. She is driven in fields that have formerly belonged to men – horse training and later aviation. She also finds herself the object of speculation when it comes to her various romances. Africa is vast but the social circles are small, and Beryl’s business becomes everyone’s business. This is both a challenge to her and a way of life.
Despite it all – bankruptcy, divorce, illness and gossip – Beryl perseveres. Her story is so vivd and alive that I felt inspired and transfixed by her, even over 80 years after her story took place. It came as no surprise when I realized, partway through the book, that this fictional book is based on a real person. No wonder her story – complex and intriguing – felt so real the whole time!
While Beryl was clearly the main character, I have to say that Africa itself was a character – or more like an omnipresent force underlying the whole book. I became mesmerized by the sweeping descriptions of Kenya and the way the land entangles everyone, shaping their spirits and who they become. I love books that involve the way different terrain does that for people – or how a sense of “home” changes people. This is a theme I’d like to explore myself someday, so I especially enjoy reading work by others who have done so masterfully, like McLain.
McLain writes in a way that makes history and people come alive. I loved losing myself in this book and it was a great way to pass some of the cold winter days of January!
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Stats: 384 pages
Recommended for: Those in the mood for a romantic, sweeping adventure.
Up Next: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain…I’m hooked. This next one involves the Hemingways in Paris 🙂