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Summary

As a young girl, Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya from Britain by parents dreaming of a new life. For her mother the dream quickly turned sour, and she returned home; Beryl was brought up by her father, who switched between indulgence and heavy-handed authority, allowing her first to run wild on their farm then incarcerating her in the classroom.

The scourge of governesses and a serial absconder from boarding school, by the age of 16 Beryl had been catapulted into a disastrous marriage - but it was in facing up to this reality that she took charge of her own destiny.

Scandalizing high society with her errant behaviour, she left her husband and became the first woman ever to hold a professional racehorse trainer's licence. After falling in with the notoriously hedonistic and gin-soaked Happy Valley set, Beryl soon became embroiled in a complex love triangle with the writer Karen Blixen and big-game hunter Denys Finch Hatton (immortalized in Blixen's memoir Out of Africa).

It was this unhappy affair which set tragedy in motion while awakening Beryl to her truest self and to her fate: to fly.

©2015 Paula McLain (P)2015 Isis Audiobooks

Critic reviews

"Paula McLain cements herself as 'the writer' of historical fictional memoir with Circling the Sun, giving vivid voice to Beryl Markham, a singular, extraordinary woman whose name we all know - and whose story we don't. In a brilliant move, McLain hardly focuses at all on the trans-Atlantic flight that made the aviator so famous, choosing instead to explore what happened before: Markham's unorthodox childhood in Kenya, a failed marriage, and a star-crossed love affair with Denys Finch Hatton. The result? In McLain's confident hands, Markham crackles to life, and we readers truly understand what made a woman so far ahead of her time believe she had the power to soar." (Jodi Picoult)
"Paula McLain has such a gift for bringing characters to life. I loved discovering the singular Beryl Markham, with all her strengths and passions and complexities, a woman who persistently broke the rules, despite the personal cost. She's a rebel in her own time, and a heroine for ours." (Jojo Moyes)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Penny
  • Havelock North, New Zealand
  • 23-10-15

Fascinating story, narration almost unbearable!

I almost gave up listening several times, despite being gripped by the real life story of Beryl Markham, who lived an extraordinary life in Africa, contemperary of the more famous Karen Blixen (Out of Africa). Unfortunately I found the narrator extremely off-putting, over-enunciating and way too 'put on posh' for my taste, and what I believe would suit the story. Yes, Beryl was undoubtedly English upper class but she could never be this prissy!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Homesick

There are not many books that are able to accurately describe Kenya but this hits the nail on the head. Having been born in Nairobi and lived within a mile of Karen Blixen’s house, the author manages to draw the very best of what it was like to grow up in this beautiful place. It made me feel homesick and long to be back there.
The only thing I found offputting about this audio book was the narrator’s overly exaggerated cut glass voice.
I would highly recommend this book and felt sad when it came to an end.

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Narrator

Trying too hard to sound ‘posh’ ruined it for me. Just got through a third of it before giving up.

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Fabulous gripping story

If you could sum up Circling the Sun in three words, what would they be?

Loved every minute

Who was your favorite character and why?

Marjorie, she achieved against all odd

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Don't have a specific one

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have if I'd had the time

Any additional comments?

None

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Wonderfully vivid and descriptive

This is the second Paula McLain novel Ive read and I really enjoyed it. The life of Beryl Markham is the topic of this work.
I got it as recommended by Richard and Judy bookclub.
The narrative was crisp and clear and I felt it added greatly to the story telling.
Beryl was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from East to West. Gossip and innuendo followed Beryl for most of her life and she allowed it to go unchallenged.
I so enjoyed this book and found Beryl remarkable and full of life and challenge. Beryl had a difficult life being abandoned by her mother at a young age in Kenya. Beryl was then raised by her father and the native Kipsigis tribe from his farm. Beryl developed into an extremely independent fine young person with a love for nature and its creatures.
Beryl was the first woman in Kenya to gain a horse trainer certificate. She married young as wished by her father knowing straight away it was a mistake. Beryl left her husband making her own way training horses. She met Denys Finch Hatton who mainly led safaris. Denys had a long standing relationship with Karen Blixen as detailed in film ‘Out of Africa’. Denys led Beryl to fly but most of the story is taken up with her race horsing days. The beauty of Kenya comes through clearly.
I so loved this book and would highly recommend it

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Inspirational story, beautiful writing and gripping performance

I felt transported to another era and another continent while listening to this excellent book. The character of Beryl felt real and strong, and how she responded to and created the twists and turns in her story was gripping and brilliant.

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Enjoyable

A well researched tale based on historical facts. It has a bit of everything - really enjoyed it.

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i wqnt to live in kenya

the story was fullyn engrossing to the point i fell in love with the country and the people. beryl is an inspiration and this story does her life a great justice

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Great story of an extraordinary woman

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I love reading stories about amazing and brave women who are ahead of their times. So was Beryl Markham, great life with some spicy stories to tell!

What did you like best about this story?

Collonial Africa setting, Beryl's bravery and curiosity, horses and airoplanes.

What about Suzannah Hampton’s performance did you like?

Well read - easy to follow and attractve to listen to!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

not necessarily, but very interesting!

Any additional comments?

I probably liked Paris Wife more but this one is also great!

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  • PACMAC
  • 25-09-15

Circling the Sun Beryl Markham

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It is an excellent book based on the remarkable life of Berylk Markham. It has everyithing abandonment by a mother adoring a father not just coping but managing her life. Romance tragedy survival against all odds. A life as interesting if not more so than that of Karen Bliksen and Her Out of Africa book.

What other book might you compare Circling the Sun to and why?

Out of Africa by Karen Bliksen

Which character – as performed by Suzannah Hampton – was your favorite?

Beryl

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

BERYL MARKHAM - Circling the Sun it needs nothing different

Any additional comments?

The author's note explains her obvious feeling for her character.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful