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 serial absconder from boarding school, by the age of sixteen 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.
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 McLain sustains a momentum as swift and heart-pounding as one of Beryl's prize horses at a gallop as she focuses on the romance, glamour, and drama of Beryl's blazing life, creating a seductive work of popular historical fiction with sure-fire bio-pic potential Booklist Ernest Hemingway, who met Markham on safari two years before her Atlantic crossing, tagged her as "a high-grade bitch" but proclaimed her 1942 memoir West with the Night "bloody wonderful." Readers might even say the same of McLain's sparkling prose and sympathetic reimagining Kirkus Captivating Library Journal McLain's latest showcases her immersive command of setting and character...[she] paints an intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants. Markham's true life was incredibly adventurous, and it's easy for readers to identify with this woman who refused to be pigeonholed by her gender. Readers will enjoy taking in the rich world McLain has created Publishers Weekly Even better than her The Paris Wife ... in Circling the Sun Markham finally gets the treatment she deserves. That it also makes for bold, absorbing fiction is so much the better New York Daily News McLain brings the scandalous past to vivid life Tatler I was swept up in colonial Africa, fascinated by her life and the goings on of the Happy Valley set Woman and Home Paula McLain is considered the new star of historical fiction, and for good reason. Fans of The Paris Wife will be captivated by Circling the Sun ... beautifully written and utterly engrossing -- Ann Patchett Mesmerising ... brimful of dazzling images -- Eithne Farry Sunday Express A truly gripping and powerful tale Stylist Gripping Woman Markham generally has a walk-on part in accounts of Out of Africa-era Kenya, but here she is the energetic, captivating centre of a richly evoked colonial world ... The beauty of the Kenyan landscape, the red of its soil and the inkiness of its night, are conveyed with pungency in McLain's accomplished, immersive telling Sunday Times
Paula McLain received an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan and has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of two collections of poetry, as well as a memoir, Like Family, and the bestselling novel, The Paris Wife. She lives in Cleveland with her family.