Circling the Sun: Beryl Markham

Circling the Sun is a work of historical fiction by the very talented Paula McClain, who also wrote another excellent book called The Paris Wife, which was about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley.   Circling the Sun  is a fictional account of Beryl Markham, who became the first aviator to fly solo and non-stop from England to North America.

But there’s much more to Markham than that.  She grew up in Kenya in the early twentieth century, when Kenya was still a British colony.  She came of age in a community where there were still rigid social norms, and at times she tried to conform to those norms.  She first married when she was a teenager, to please her father, but Beryl quickly discovered she couldn’t behave as a wife should.  She left her husband to become a horse trainer, a career that she returned to throughout her life.  In fact, she became the first woman in the British African colonies to hold a license as a horse trainer.  She married again and had a child, but that marriage also failed when her husband realized Beryl could not “fit” into British society’s expectations of a wife and mother.  She later learned to fly, seeing it primarily as another way to earn a living.

McClain’s book is fascinating , though, beyond its examination of Markham.  McClain also shows the ways in which Africa changed in the early 20th century.

A great read!




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