Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain
Discussion Questions:
1. At the beginning of the book, Beryl reflects that her father’s farm in Njoro is “the one place in the world I’d been made for.” Do you feel this is a fitting way to describe Beryl’s relationship with Kenya, too? Does she seem more suited—-more made for—-life there than the others in her circle? Is there a place in your life that you would describe the same way?

2. While it is clear he loves his daughter, do you feel Beryl’s father is a good parent? Do you think Beryl would have said he was? Did you sympathize with him at any point?

3. Beryl is forced to be independent from a very young age. How do you think this shapes her personality (for better or for worse)?

4. After Jock’s drunken attack, D fires Beryl and sends her away. Do you understand his decision? Despite all the philandering and indulgent behaviors of the community, do you feel it’s fair that Beryl is judged so harshly for the incident?

5. How would you describe Beryl and Denys’s relationship? In what ways are they similar souls? How does their first encounter—-outside, under the stars at her coming–out party—-encapsulate the nature of their connection?

6. Karen and Beryl are two strong, iconoclastic women drawn to the same unobtainable man. Do you understand how Beryl could pursue Denys even though he was involved with Karen? Did you view the friendship between the women as a true one, despite its complications?

7. Why do you believe the author chose the title Circling the Sun? Does it bring to mind a particular moment from the novel or an aspect of Beryl’s character?

8. When Beryl is quite young, she reflects that “softness and helplessness got you nothing in this place.” Do you agree with her? Or do you think Beryl places too much value on strength and independence?

9. When Beryl becomes a mother herself, she is determined not to act as her own mother did. Do you feel she succeeds? How does motherhood spur her decision to exchange horse training for flying? Could you identify with this choice?

10. After Paddy the lion attacks Beryl, Bishon Singh says, “perhaps you weren’t ever meant for him.” Do you think that Beryl truly discovers what she is meant for by the end of the novel?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)


Book Club Talking Points:
This book tackles many topics that are discussion worthy. Beryl is abandoned by both mother and father. She is strong and independent and reaches for her dreams, seemingly undeterred by these set backs or the opinion of others. She was adventurous and certainly brave, most likely because of her free spirited youth growing up on a farm in Kenya. The book also looks at failed marriages and pain of love lost.
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