My book review of 'Great Circle' by Maggie Shipstead

Great Circle

by Maggie Shipstead
Great Circle
by Maggie Shipstead

This is a huge sweep of a book beginning in the early 20th century, taking in vast historical events and endeavours while weaving in the imagined lives of two passionate and ambitious heroines.

Twins Marian and Jamie are abandoned by their parents and brought up by their uncle in rural America. They love the great outdoors and when a visiting aerobatic troupe come to town, Marian's horizons are expanded to dominating the skies.

Her life is then dedicated to circumnavigating the globe in a plane, overcoming all the social and financial obstacles along the way.

In 2015 a Hollywood movie star, Hadley Baxter is on self-destruct mode until she is offered the part to play Marian Graves in a biopic. She feels a tremendous connection with the famed female pilot and, in reading the script, she wonders whether Marian was lost in the way everyone thought.

I very much enjoyed this book though the second story of the Hollywood star lost momentum for me.

I think because there are so few female aviators who have achieved such an endeavour I needed more authenticity. I believed in Marian as a character in a romantic, family saga, but not as a pioneer. The novel reminded me of William Boyd's imagined biography in 'Sweet Caress', but I felt more engagement with his book than this.

That all being said, I was lost in the world of Marian and her family and friends. I didn't want to put the book down and was desperate to find any moment to go back to reading it!

Review date: September 2021
Publication date: 4th May 2021