A captivating story about Beryl Markham - a pioneer in the field of aviation and an avid horse trainer - both male-dominated fields in the 1920s. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun

By Paula McLain


PBR Book Review:


I was pulled into this heartfelt story right from the start. Africa is huge, I’ve read many books set in this country, yet I feel there is always something to learn with each new book. Young Beryl was a delight to read about. Growing up on her father’s farm in Kenya, she was as wild and free as we all envision Africa to be. Her mother abandoned her at age four, her father left her when she was a teenager, yet these events did not dampen her spirit or hinder her development into a strong independent woman, but most likely shaped her into a woman not afraid to take chances, one who eventually makes a record breaking Atlantic flight in the mid 1930s , flying solo. I found reading about this adventurous and self-sufficient woman inspiring. Recommend. Excellent book club choice.

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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*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.

Book Summary
Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

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.

Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

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