Monday, 1 August 2016

Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Published by Virago
27th August 2015
Hardback Edition

As a young girl, Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya from Britain by parents dreaming of a new life. For her mother, the dream quickly turned sour, and she returned home; Beryl was brought up by her father, who switched between indulgence and heavy-handed authority, allowing her first to run wild on their farm, then incarcerating her in the classroom. The scourge of governesses and serial absconder from boarding school, by the age of sixteen Beryl had been catapulted into a disastrous marriage - but it was in facing up to this reality that she took charge of her own destiny.

Scandalizing high society with her errant behaviour, she left her husband and became the first woman ever to hold a professional racehorse trainer's licence. After falling in with the notoriously hedonistic and gin-soaked Happy Valley set, Beryl soon became embroiled in a complex love triangle with the writer Karen Blixen and big game-hunter Denys Finch Hatton (immortalized in Blixen's memoir Out of Africa). It was this unhappy affair which set tragedy in motion, while awakening Beryl to her truest self, and to her fate: to fly.

I loved Paula McLain's novel The Paris Wife when it first hit the shelves back in 2011 and I have had a copy of this to read and review for about a year now but have to admit that I was waiting for what felt like the right time to sit and devour it.  That occurred last week whilst on holiday and I instantly knew that this was the book for me to read, and I am so glad I did.  Based on the life of Beryl Markham and set principally in Africa in the 1920s, this follows her childhood, marriage and career as well as her love affairs, and of those around her too.

Beryl moved from the UK to Kenya as a toddler and it wasn't long before her mother yearned to return back to her native soil.  Beryl, already in love with her new surroundings, decided to stay with her father and remained in Africa for most of her life.  Growing up with the natives she certainly didn't have the conventional upbringing of a white English child at that time.  At the age of 16 she married but this was not to be the love affair she had possible dreamt of.  In order to escape her husband Beryl begins training horses and becomes very successful at it. 

The lives of some of the expats in Africa at this time are certainly well publicised and intricately linked and two of the principal characters in this story Denys and Karen are most widely known from the movie Out of Africa starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.  Beryl is no stranger to gossip by this time and her antics cause her marriage and career to be jepordised more than once.

This book focuses much less on her flying career, which didn't take off (pardon the pun) until the mid 1930s when she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from the East to West coast and more of what led up to this occurring.  I have to admit, I was hooked from page one and have now ordered Out of Africa in both book and dvd format, as well as Beryl's autobiography West with the Night as this book left me crying out for more.

I really do recommend this.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

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