Circling the Sun. Finished 7-1-17, rating 4.5/5, historical fiction, pub. 2015.
Unabridged audio read by Katharine McEwan. 12.5 hours.
Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl 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, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.
Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up, only that it was written by a Clevelander and someone mentioned that they liked this better than her other bestseller, The Paris Wife. Little did I know that I would love this story of 1920’s Kenya so much.
Beryl’s upbringing was eccentric and because of that she was a fantastic main character. Her English mother couldn’t handle her life in Kenya so she moved back to England with her son, leaving Beryl with her father. Beryl was able to run wild as a child and was accepted by the local native tribe, at least until she was old enough to be sent away to school. She was attacked by a tiger and lived to tell the tale. She was fearless with horses and broke every mold a woman trainer could in the 1920’s. Her unbridled nature led her to questionable relationships and choices, but she always maintained her independence and paid dearly for mistakes.
I don’t know how much this Beryl matches the real Beryl, but I am interested in finding out by reading Beryl Markam’s autobiography West with the Night. I have never even seen or read Out of Africa, where Beryl is part of the tragic love triangle in this novel. I need to rectify that soon. She was an immensely flawed character, but that made me love her that much more. And I loved learning about Kenya at that time as big changes were happening.
Highly recommend this one. The audio was a wonderful way to experience this one.
So, for those of you who have seen or read Out of Africa, what did you think of Beryl?
4 thoughts on “Circling the Sun by Paula McLain”
I didn’t love this book the way other people have. I’m thinking I should have listened to it.
I never read The Paris Wife. But McClain does seem to be an author that I should give a try.
It has been such a long time since I’ve seen the movie. I like the sound of the book.