If there’s any book you need to pick up this summer, let “Circling the Sun: A Novel“ from Paula McLain be at the very top of that list. If you’ve read “The Paris Wife,” you already know how spectacular the story was. “Circling the Sun” is even better.
Like “The Paris Wife,” the main character is based on a real person. McLain starts off by introducing us to Beryl Markham, a woman who is on a journey to become the first person ever to fly from London to New York. [There were people that had flown from New York to London, but never from London to New York.] As her plane starts to stutter, her life flashes before her eyes and we are transported to Beryl’s days of youth when she was a young girl running wild on a farm in Kenya.
McLain takes you through Beryl’s life as a wild child who hung out with the Kipsigis tribe and learned how to raise horses with her father. She trained with the boys of the Kipsigis tribe on how to hunt, make bows, and snap whips. She rode horses and trained them to race, just like her father did. She was a tomboy through and through.
By the time she was sixteen, her father’s horse farm started to fail, so her father pushed her into marrying a neighboring farmer. Not knowing each other very well ended up leading to a divorce a few years later. Before her father left for Capetown, he told Beryl to get her license to be a horse trainer, so she set out to become the first woman to ever get a license to be a horse trainer.
She went to work at a family friend’s ranch where she could log her hours and prepare for the exam. She took the exam and a few weeks later received her license to train horses to race. This would become her livelihood.
As her first marriage was slowly disintegrating, she started to have indiscretions. She soon began to learn how the colony could damage her and the people around her through gossip. It’s even more amazing how the gossip traveled. You think you’re alone and no one else will know, then all of a sudden everyone knows.
If you’ve ever seen or read Out of Africa, both Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton play prominent roles in Beryl’s story. Both women would end up falling head over heels in love with Denys. Beryl, though, may have loved him more.
McLain takes us through Beryl’s triumphs over the years, her relationships and adventures from one year to the next. This book was so well written and the story was just so fascinating, just like “The Paris Wife,” I had a hard time putting it down. McLain is a master storyteller. Beryl is an inspiring woman. She was the first woman to ever be a licensed horse trainer. She was not only the first person to fly from London to New York, but she was also the first woman to do it.
Beryl made her share of mistakes and learned from them, but she also valued her freedom. She was a wild child from the start and no one could truly tame her or domesticate her. Like Denys, it wasn’t in their nature. They valued their freedom more. That is truly why they were so drawn to each other. They understood that need inside of each other to not be caged.
Denys was the love of her life. He was also the love of Karen Blixen’s life, as well.
In the end, Denys truly belonged to Karen. She could write the other woman out of the story (Out of Africa) like she never existed, because Denys was hers in the end. She was considered the grieving widow, even though they never married.
This story was absolutely incredible. It will make you want to book your next vacation to Kenya to go on a safari expedition, to see the rolling hills or the flamingos flying off at the sound of horses hooves on the beaches. The book is beautifully written.
Circling the Sun: A Novel will be released on Tuesday, July 28th. You’re going to absolutely enjoy this tale. Paula McLain is proving again and again why she is a master at her craft.
Disclaimers: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive monetary compensation. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for writing a review on the blog. All content and opinions are my own.