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Circling the Sun

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  41,142 Ratings  ·  5,175 Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Paula McLain is considered the new star of historical fiction, and for good reason. Fans of The Paris Wife will be captivated by Circling the Sun, which . . . is both beautifully written and utterly engrossing.”—Ann Patchett, Country Living

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated
ebook, 384 pages
Published July 28th 2015 by Ballantine Books (first published July 2015)
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Johanna C. I highly recommend starting with West with the Night. Beryl is an amazing and complicated character that history has not been favorable to. Her…moreI highly recommend starting with West with the Night. Beryl is an amazing and complicated character that history has not been favorable to. Her writing is amazing and even Hemingway said he was ashamed to be called a writer after reading West with the Night. There's some controversy on whether or not she actually wrote it. I grew up in Kenya and know people who knew Beryl (who were also writers) and they are convinced that she did write it. I have read lots on the "happy valley" era and most do not necessarily portray Beryl favorably so I am interested to see how Paula McLain portrays her. (less)
Bob H Ms. Blixen seems a sympathetic character here; frankly I liked the fictional Beryl Markham here less than I liked the real Beryl Markham who wrote…moreMs. Blixen seems a sympathetic character here; frankly I liked the fictional Beryl Markham here less than I liked the real Beryl Markham who wrote West with the Night. Different prose and somewhat different personality. I suggest you read this book as a period romance, fiction.(less)

Community Reviews

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Aug 03, 2015 Dee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Paula McLain's latest novel, narrating the life and times of pioneering aviator and horse racer Beryl Markham, is labeled as historical fiction that transports readers "to colonial Kenya in the 1920s." With that kind of a sales pitch, you'd expect at least a halfway realistic portrait of the manners and social conditions of the times, with more than one token black character thrown in. It is, after all, a novel set in Africa, based on a historical figure.

Yet, Circling the Sun is all about white
Angela M
Jun 21, 2015 Angela M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beryl Markham is a flawed character - certainly , probably as flawed as the real person that this fictional autobiography is based on and as flawed as most of us , but I could not find a flaw in the way this story was told. The writing from the first sentence describing her plane , the one she flew across the Atlantic , is mesmerizing and then moves to the unbelievable descriptions when she first arrived in Kenya as a little girl and in the days beyond - simply beautiful writing.

I read an advan
Mar 07, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The luscious writing of this novel will transport you to the dry rolling hills of Kenya and quench your thirst after a long drought. It is an exquisite story of Beryl Markham who grew up on the plains of Africa to become a legendary 1st woman horse trainer and later, a pilot. It's her path to self discovery through the disastrous relationships and love entanglements that define whom she became. A wild and adventurous spirit, much like the horses she worked to tame. I loved her character, her pas ...more
Jul 01, 2015 Esil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I haven't given my rare 5 star rating to a book in a long time, but I am giving Circling the Sun 5 stars without any hesitation. Paula McLain's fictionalization of the early part of Beryl Markham's life completely engrossed me. I knew nothing about Beryl Markham before reading Circling the Sun, but as told by McLaim she is a fascinating woman who grew up very unconventionally in early 20th century Kenya as the white daughter of a horse ranch owner. It is a great story and the depiction of Beryl ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Until I was about to read "Circling the Sun", all I knew about Beryl Markham was of her record breaking voyage across the Atlantic, in 1936, ....Her extraordinary accomplishment.

I'm reminded that a person's accomplishments -and character are not always of equal measure.
Beryl Markham was a complicated female -during times when being a complicated female was complicated!

The storytelling is emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous. On one hand its clear Beryl is a -independent female --
Jul 10, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Hook - I liked the writing in McLain’s Paris Wife but not the subject. After discussing it with my book group and meeting the author, I liked it better, but still the subject, anything to do with Hemmingway, was not for me. Circling the Sun sounded much more intriguing and I knew it was a better fit.

The Line – The publisher has requested that no quotes be used until the book is published late July. I’ll respect that and actually must, as you’ll discover if you read the rest of my comments.

This makes a great companion read with Beryl Markham’s memoir West with the Night, which is about growing up on a horse farm in colonial Kenya in the early 20th century. At age four, her mother left the family to return to England, and Markham grew up with a lot of self-reliance, learning to do hard farm work and playing mostly with Masai tribal children. She succeeded in becoming a successful racehorse trainer and later a bush pilot, the precursor for her achievement in the 30s as the first wom ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 18, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it it was amazing
The first time I read about Beryl Markham was in a short story collection, Almost Famous Women: Stories. That was really the first time I had ever even heard about her. This book was nothing short of amazing.

The descriptions of Africa and Beryl's love for her native Kenya definitely shone throughout this novel.

Her love for Denis, Fitch Hatton was heartbreaking.

Her struggle not to conform, to be what others thought she should be led her to accomplish so much by the age of twenty eight, even thou
Out of Africa is a favorite movie in my house. Robert Redford is at his best as Denys Fitch Hatton, and I do a mean imitation of Meryl Streep's awfully accented, "I had a farm in Africa." Really. So when I learned that this book is in the same Kenya setting and that Denys and Karen would make an appearance (actually they make many appearances), I knew I had to read this. And I was fortunate to snag both an ebook from NetGalley, and an ARC from LibraryThings, of which I alternated reading and qui ...more
What An Extraordinary Life! Set in 1920's Africa, young Beryl (Clutterbuck) Markham grows up "wild" after her mother's abandonment at age four and her father's at age sixteen yet she overcomes adversity and learns to stand on her own (many times over) becoming a well known horse trainer and first female pilot to cross the Atlantic.

While Beryl doesn't always make the best choices in her tumultuous life, she is one tough lady who loves her homeland and fights for her independence albeit learning s

Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an advance reader copy of this book.

Well, color me surprised! I tend to avoid fictionalized accounts of historical women because they often drift into “chick lit” territory where I prefer to stick closer to a true biography. I have not read “The Paris Wife,” so I had no idea what to expect with Paula McLain but I was delighted to find that she was up to the task and crafted a credible, well-written and gripping account of the early life of Beryl Markh
Jul 07, 2015 Lori rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am so happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were richly written and as unpredictable as the African landscape they lived in. Beryl Markham was sixteen years old when she was thrown into a social climate that turned out to be harsher than the hot African heat and wilder than the horses she loved to train. She made many bad decisions for which she paid a high price, but through it all she never gave up on herself. I have a great deal of respect for her because of that ...more
Cathrine ☯
Nov 06, 2015 Cathrine ☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just a few thoughts as there is not much I can add to so many other great reviews.

I felt it was better than The Paris Wife. The descriptions of Africa just stunning and what I enjoyed the most. I kept picturing the cinematography and hearing the musical score from Out Of Africa which enhanced my enjoyment of this book. I had to slow down my reading pace towards the end as I was racing to the finish wanting to move on from all the personal romantic entanglements and horse racing and get back
Rebecca Foster
(Nearly 4.5) This is just as good as The Paris Wife – if not better. I didn’t think I was very interested in aviatrix Beryl Markham, but McLain proved me wrong. What a life story, and what terrific storytelling to do it justice. Before she ever thought of flying solo across the Atlantic, she was just Beryl Clutterbuck, raised in Kenya by her father in the 1900s–10s. She became one of Africa’s first female horse trainers, and its first professional female pilot. McLain describes her African set ...more
Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya by her British parents. But her mother could never settle there and left soon home with Beryl's older brother. Beryl was then brought up by her father who let her run free on the farm and no governesses or school could tame the wild Beryl and she was barely seventeen when she married for the first time.

Paula McLain has painted a vivid picture of this strong wild girl who grows up to be just a strong wild woman who defied the social norms for women at the time.
Apr 05, 2016 Camie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't add much to the great reviews already written which highly praise this beautifully written poetic book of historical fiction based on the life of Beryl Markham. Set in Colonial Kenya ( 1920's) where her mother deserts her at age four along with her father, a rugged pioneering man who raises thoroughbred horses, she becomes an amazingly strong trailblazing woman. Having been partially raised by an African tribe, married off at age 16 when her father's business venture goes belly up, and b ...more
I LIKE my three star books. I recommend them to others. I think in fact others may enjoy this book more than I did. It is very much a love story. I also gave the author’s The Paris Wife three stars, but Circling the Sun is in fact better. There is an epilogue where the author reveals that she too was separated from her mother at an early age, just as Beryl here. You can feel this connection in the writing.

What the book does tremendously well is draw Kenya - the landscape and the social climate

I wanted to read this because I loved The Paris Wife and so I was curious about what other stories McLain could weave about interesting women in history. Well this wasn’t The Paris Wife, but it was almost as good. The thing I am learning about McLain is that she is a really talented writer and that counts for a lot.

Circling the Sun is about Beryl Markham, horse trainer and aviator. Beryl was kind of a bad ass, especially seeing what she was able to achieve in the early 1900’s. She grew up wild a
I had the pleasure of reading Paula McLain's first novel The Paris Wife and liked it. (4 stars). So I was looking forward to this one, especially after reading so many positive reviews. Well, I wasn't disappointed. McLain has outdone herself with Circling the Sun. Historical fiction is my favorite genre; I get to learn something and be entertained at the same time. When everything comes together, good characters, good writing, interesting plot with a good setting, it's makes for, in this case, a ...more
Jul 31, 2016 Jeannie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2016
I loved this book! Beryl Markham was a very strong, independent woman. She was a horse trainer and also learned to fly. I wish I could have known her. I plan to read more about her. While I didn't always agree with the choices she made, I liked that she was so determined and accomplished so much. I felt sad about her relationships and that she struggled in that area of her life. What an amazing life she lived though.

The writing in this book is lovely.

"If it was a very long night, and sleep didn'
Paula McLain has captured the adventurous spirit of Beryl Markham. As a horse trainer and pilot in her beloved British East Africa (Kenya), she succeeded in fields not open to women in the early 20th Century. She was also the first woman pilot to cross the Atlantic from east to west.

This fictional telling of Markham's life goes deeply into her childhood, her first two failed marriages, and her relationship with Denys Finch Hatton. Both Markham and Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa) were deep
Erika Robuck
Jul 29, 2015 Erika Robuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I hadn’t loved McLain’s THE PARIS WIFE, I still would have picked up CIRCLING THE SUN based on the cover alone: so warm it glows with the heat of the African sun, moody with the distant silhouette of the acacia tree, and the brooding woman with bobbed hair wearing slacks and riding boots when women didn’t typically wear slacks. The cover could enfold a Hemingway story–something Kilamanjaro-esque–and my high expectations were met in every way.

Set in Kenya in the 1920s, CIRCLING THE SUN represe
If you are thinking of picking up this book, make sure you fall within one of the following categories:

1) People who love horses
2) People who love reading about insipid love affairs
3) People who enjoy colonialist attitudes and the complete erasure of the existence of the native population

Unfortunately, since I don't fall within the three above criteria, I despised this book. I have never before read such a random and pointless book in my life. Supposed to be the life and times of Beryl Markham,
May 31, 2015 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I didn’t so much read this novel about early aviator Beryl Markham as feel it, being swept up into the wild, diverse world of colonial Africa every time I opened the book. Normally I much prefer biography to any fictionalized version of a real person’s life, especially someone like Markham who’s penned a wonderful account of her own adventures, but Paula McLain brings Markham to life on the page by writing her rather amazing story with such insight and feeling that while I was reading the book i ...more
♥ Sandi
Sep 12, 2016 ♥ Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-have
From young motherless girl to accomplished horse trainer and airplane pilot, Beryl Markham was a very independent, strong willed woman of the bush. Raised in and loving Africa she spent most of her life there. Not an easy life by any means, she fought her way to fame and fortune, not always getting what she so desperately desired.

I really liked this book. The characters were well written and came to life easily. Not having read anything else about Beryl Markham - however knowing who she was - t
When I read The Paris Wife about Hadley Richardson Hemingway, I became convinced that Paula McLain had a gift for bringing her historical people to life. After reading Circling The Sun, I am sure of it.

Here she takes on the lesser known character in the Karen Blixen-Denys Fitch Hatton-Beryl Markham triangle. Thanks to the book and movie Out of Africa, Karen and Denys’s love affair became widely known. What was less known is that he equally loved Beryl, the self-sufficient and wild-spirited daugh
Beryl Markham, the subject of Paula McLain's latest excellent historical fiction, lived a highly unconventional life, growing up raised by her father on a horse farm in Kenya in the early 20th century. Her mother, disliking the primitive conditions, returned to England when Beryl was only 4. The nearby Kipsigis tribe, living on the farm-estate, shared in her upbringing as Beryl loved to spend time with her friends there, loved their ceremonies and often wished she were a boy to participate more ...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
Wow, this was truly a remarkable book about a remarkable woman, Beryl Markham. Told in her words, she tells about her life growing up in Africa among the lions, hyenas, the fierce colorful Kipsigis tribe, her loves and her spirit of adventure. The glorious setting and descriptions of the African plains was so wonderfully alive in this book, it was so easy to feel what Paula McLain wanted the reader to get a sense of through her writing. Beryl was a strong, independent woman with a indominable sp ...more
Susan Johnson
This is one of my favorite books of 2015. McLain has brought an amazing woman, Beryl Markham, and a country, Kenya, vividly alive. Her last novel, Paris Wife, did the same for Ernest Hemingway's first wife but it did not have the depth of this one because of the added character of Kenya.

Beryl's family moved to Kenya in 1904 when she was four. He mother took an immediate dislike to it and almost immediately returned to England with her son. She leaves Beryl with her father and after one measly l
Diane Barnes
I really loved this fictional account of Beryl Markham ' s early life in Africa. It reminded me a lot of "Out of Africa" in it's lush descriptions of Kenya and the surrounding area. Of course, Karen Blixon and Denys Finch - Hatton were major players in the story, but Beryl was a woman who lived outside the box and pretty much did things her own way. She was independent by necessity, but also vulnerable. I was sorry that this book ended with her trans-Atlantic flight in 1936, she lived until 1986 ...more
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Paula McLain is the author of the New York Times and internationally bestselling novels, The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun. She’s also published two collections of poetry, Less of Her and Stumble, Gorgeous, the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and has since receive ...more
More about Paula McLain...

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“We’re all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren’t your own person at all—are you? The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy.” 23 likes
“Things come that we never would have predicted for ourselves or even guessed at. And yet they change us for ever.” 13 likes
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