Thursday, July 30, 2015

Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

In the past few years there seem to be a lot of books about the woman behind the man, or the woman we just didn’t know that much about but was a trailblazer in a time when we are told only men blazed trails.
Author Paula McLain has hit written another success story.  I knew next to nothing about Beryl Markham before reading Circling the Sun.  I knew she was an aviator when women didn’t do that.  And I knew of her from a children’s picturebook that featured one event in her life. The day she was eaten by a lion.  But that’s another story….actually, that story is in this book.
Beryl and her family moved from England to Africa when she was a very young child.  Shortly after, her mother took her brother and went back to England.  She adored her father and was raised by him and the tribe of Kipsigis who shared their estate, but for all of her life Beryl wondered why she was abandoned by her mother.
This is the story of her childhood and adolescent years.  Her wild, headstrong , fearless years in the African bush.   Did I say she was fearless? 
As the result of another major life change, Beryl makes her mark in the world as a horse trainer and this brings her into contact with the European racing set.  She is introduced to and falls in love with Denys Finch Hatton and this affair nearly does her in as she finds herself in a love triangle with Denys and Karen Blixen, who we know as Isak Dinesen author of Out of Africa. 
It isn’t until the end of this book that Beryl immerses herself into the world of aviation, the part of her life we are familiar with.   I have to say Paula McLain brought Africa to us and us to Africa through the eyes of a young child turned young woman with the world in her hands.   I learned a lot and was introduced to a remarkable woman who made her way in a man’s world.