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Circling the Sun

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  70,175 ratings  ·  7,698 reviews
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl Markham is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up ...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published July 28th 2015 by Ballantine Books (first published July 7th 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 writin…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 Wes…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)

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 23, 2015 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
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2017-completed
Paula McLain’s writing is so vivid and cinematic, I felt I was right in the story rather than reading it. In this book, a fictional biography of Beryl Markham, I could play alongside Beryl and her young companions, be involved in training horses alongside Beryl, and fly the Atlantic from England to the East coast of North America. I could adventure on safaris, rub elbows with royalty and experience the anguish and joys of love, marriages, and lovers. I could feel a yearning for Africa, her vast ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Circling The Sun caught my eye with its beautiful cover, first and foremost. I had this book for so long now, never got to it. It was time.

Oh the chain of events. Or sometimes also called fate or destiny, right? I first read about Beryl Markham in Almost Famous Women : Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

Beryl Markham piqued my interest then, especially when this remarkable women wrote an autobiography, West With The Night, which had Ernst Hemingway glowing from head to toe.
Elyse  Walters
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 -
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,
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
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.

Diane S ☔
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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

Apr 19, 2015 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'
Aug 21, 2015 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
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ☯️
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 bac
Beryl Markham (1902-1986) was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1936. She was the first female horse trainer in the world, producing one of the greatest victories in the history of racing. She was a free-spirited character. She may not be someone you identify with, but she was full of passion and worth of attention. “A woman who lived by her own code instead of society’s.”

Beryl is brought to Kenya as a child. But the rough kind of life isn’t meant for her mother and brother, wh
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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.
Kathryn in FL
This novel is a fictionalized account of a remarkable woman, Beryl Markham, who lived in the early part of the 20th Century in Kenya as a horse trainer. The story is very captivating and maintains a solid pace throughout. Though I read this a couple of years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it remains somewhat clear in my memory (I have recall issues from a Traumatic Brain Injury 9 years ago). So, it made a very positive impression!

I had read Beryl Markham's, autobiography/memoir prior to this p
(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 s ...more
Patricia Williams
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, loved the story, love this author. This was a wonderful story about a character that i knew little about and so was very interesting to learn about her life. Although it's Historical Fiction, you know that these things did happen to her that they were real experiences. Beryl is an admirable woman and I really enjoyed reading about her. i love this author's writing style. Also read The Paris Wife and will continue to read her books.
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
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
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
May 19, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Connie G
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
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thomas by:
Shelves: biography, netgalley
I received this ebook free from the publisher through This novel is told in the first person, from the viewpoint of Beryl Markham, the first certified women horse trainer and the first women pilot in Africa. The book reads like an autobiography. The author does a good job of incorporating the sights, sounds and smells of Kenya. For those of you who want to read Beryl's autobiography, it is called "West with the Night." Also, there is a very good traditional biography "Straight on ...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

Articles featuring this book

The historical novelist offers five high-flying recs in honor of Beryl Markham, the aviator chronicled in her new book, Circling the Sun.
8 likes · 9 comments
“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.” 32 likes
“Things come that we never would have predicted for ourselves or even guessed at. And yet they change us for ever.” 19 likes
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