Author: Paula McLain
Publisher: Ballantine Books, July 2015
Format: Audiobook narrated by Katherine McEwan (12 hours)
Circling the Sun is the life story of Beryl Markham who was born in England in 1902. Beryl’s life was changed forever when her family moved to East Africa/Kenya when she was four. Her father wanted the free land the British government was offering it’s British citizens. After a few years Beryl’s mother abandoned her and her father. She took her older brother and moved back to England. Beryl seldom heard from her. Beryl and her father were left to cope on their own. The farm and raising and training horses was Beryl’s dad’s dream, but it soon became hers.
Beryl and her Dad completely embraced their life in Kenya and they became an integral part of the expat community. As Beryl grew up she longs to be as good a horse trainer as her dad. Unfortunately, her dad does not succeed financially. He plans a move to southern Kenya. Beryl wants to stay, but she is only 16. Her options are limited. Finally, she agreed to marry a neighboring farmer.
The years ahead are filled with ups and downs. Life is not easy for a person like Beryl. The first half of the twentieth century was too restrictive for her. Had she been born a male, I doubt she would have had a problem doing the things she wanted to do. Beryl wanted to be a professional horse trainer and an airplane pilot. Ultimately, she was able to fulfill both of those dreams, but certainly at a high cost.
Beryl Markham was a real person. I hadn’t heard of her until this book. The author, Paula McLain, did fan amazing job of taking us inside the heart and emotions of Beryl. She told the story in the first person so it read like an autobiography. When I learned of Paula McLain’s own background of abandonment by her mother and years of foster care, I understood why Circling the Sun felt so personal and emotional.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and I’m glad I read it. It was a book club selecion and all but one member felt the same way. Our one dissentee did not like Beryl’s long parade of love affairs. I’ll have to admit that at one point in the story I said, “Oh no, not one more man!” The book seemed long. It dragged in the middle and could have been shortened. Don’t let that stop you from adding Circling the Sun to your to-read list. It made for a very good and lively book club discussion. If you have eve read Out of Africa (or seen the movie), you’ll enjoy this book.