Though I am a passionate reader, making time to read a great book these days has proven to be a challenge for me. It is hard to make time to find an intriguing story and even more difficult to find some quiet corner in which to read it. Luckily, I still manage to steal some patches of time in which I can pamper myself with a good novel.
Quite recently, I have stumbled upon Paula McLain’s book, Circling the Sun. It is actually a biographical novel recounting the life of Beryl Markham, the first female aviator that managed to cross the Atlantic from East to West (Abingdon, England to New York) in 1936. It is with this event that the book begins, although the story narrates her life from her childhood until adult years. What got me interested in this title is that Beryl Markham’s life is intimately tied to that of another woman who lived in Kenya in the beginning of the 20th century, Karen Blixen. Blixen herself is well-known for her book Out of Africa that was made into the famous Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
From the pages of the book, we find out that not only the two women were intimate friends, but they also loved the same man, the eternal wanderer – Dennis Finch Hatton. However, the novel is much more than a biographical attempt, it is a wonderful story that lets you into the intimate life of Beryl, her thoughts, her attempt to adapt to society after having spent her child years and adolescence amongst the Kipsigis tribe and into the wilderness and her struggle to overcome the void that her mother left when she abandoned her when she was only 4 years old. The pages of the novel are filled with fantastic descriptions of the Kenyan land, the society that was just beginning to form in the colony and the relations established between its inhabitants. Paula McLain manages to keep you hooked with not only a great story, but with her talent to bring her characters alive and transport you in a fascinating period.
If you read the author’s note on the story and on the reasons for which she decided to dig into the existence of this exceptional, yet unknown woman, you will find that Beryl herself wrote an autobiography entitled West With the Wind that passed unnoticed at that time, but that Hemingway qualified as an exceptional piece of writing. Therefore, this is on my book list for this year, as I would like to see things through her eyes, but also go back in those times and places through her narrative once more.
As I was fascinated with her writing style, I think that after reading Beryl Markham’s book, I will purchase Paula McLain’s debut novel, The Paris wife, centered on Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. I can’t wait to see what Parisian landscapes and fantastic characters this amazing author has in store for me.