Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is in my top five of books read this year, 2016, so far. It is a historical fiction book, based on the life of Beryl Markham, who wrote West With the Night. It's about her life (born in England) in Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century. Her mother abandoned her and their father when Beryl was 4, leaving for England with their son, Beryl's brother. She was 20 before she met her mother again. Beryl grew up when the land was known as British East Africa. Her father, a British colonial, raised Beryl himself, and trained racehorses (eventually - they struggled at first in the harsh land) and became famous. Beryl worked with him once it was clear that school wasn't for her. Beryl married young but the marriage wasn't a good one and they eventually divorced. She became famous in her own right for her training of race horses. Eventually she also because a pilot, the first and only female pilot in Africa. She was the first female to fly across the Atlantic, from east to west, also. She lived during the time of, and was friends with Karen Blixen (who wrote the book Out of Africa - Meryl Streep played Karen in the movie), known as the author Isak Dinesen. They both loved and had a relationship with the famous big game hunter, Denys Finch Hatton.
I learned so much about early 20th century Africa/Kenya and it made me research Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton myself - fascinating people. Beryl ended up marrying twice more (Markham was the last name of husband #2, which she kept). I loved reading about the land and the people that Beryl was a part of, more so than her British homeland and people. She grew up speaking fluent Swahili and her childhood friends were the local tribes people.
The author writes brilliantly and I can't wait to read her other book, The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemingway's wife.
I liked this book so much, that I am now listening to Beryl's own book, West With the Night, and I will follow up with a book called The Bolter, by Frances Osborne, which also takes place in Kenya (a true story; a non-fiction book of the same time period). I highly recommend this book.
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