|Circling the Sun
4 / 5
"The Vega Gull is a peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I've known, and somehow mine to fly."
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 requested this book from Netgalley several months back, despite my having been pretty lukewarm about The Paris Wife. However, I enjoyed this book far more than McLain's previous work. I was almost immediately drawn in by Beryl Markham and her unique life story. I am curious to know how different this book was from Markham's own autobiography; does it explore a different part of her life? I will have to read her own book.
In any case, what a remarkable woman Ms. Markham was - especially given the time and her situation! Moved to Africa as a child by her father and then left there by her mother, it is understandable that she grew into the "tomboy" and feminist that she did. At a time when women didn't do what men did, Beryl continually proved that they could. She became one of the first female horse trainers and aviators. Her love of Kenya's land shone through in this story.
Having seen Out of Africa, I knew more about Karen Blixen's story than Beryl Markham's, of course. So it was fascinating to see the colonial African world through another pair of eyes. I was surprised by how little appeared, in this novel, to be racially driven. More, it focused on alliances and the many, many infidelities which seemed de rigueur for society Europeans living in Kenya during Markham's time.
Overall, this was an enjoyable audiobook to spend several days on. I was disappointed to leave Markham's world upon completion. And now I look forward more eagerly to more historical fiction from Ms. McLain.
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