I was born to be a wanderer.
From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship, to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots looping and diving over the rugged forests of her childhood, to the thrill of flying Spitfires during the war, the life of Marian Graves has always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger.
In 1950, she embarks on her life’s dream – to fly a great circle around the globe. But after a crash landing, she finds herself stranded on the Antartic ice without enough fuel. With a fearsome stretch of water separating her from her goal, she writes one last entry in her logbook.
She is ready for her final journey.
Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a brilliant, troubled Hollywood starlet, is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot’s life.
An enthralling journey over oceans and continents and a drama of exhilarating power, GREAT CIRCLE is a story of loss and obsession, sacrifice and survival, of the unknowable mysteries of freedom, love and life itself.
Thank you to Tandem Collective and Doubleday Books for inviting me to be involved in the Great Circle readalong and for providing me with a copy of the book and some other delicious goodies to enjoy whilst reading.
What to say about Great Circle? Having just closed the book today on its final page, the word epic comes to mind. This is a mighty tome of a book spanning a lifetime; prohibition, a war, great loves and losses and of course a journey through time, round the world and across the progress of aviation travel.
With a tumultuous start in life Marian, along with her brother Jamie, is rescued from a sinking ship by her father, the ship’s captain who is quickly disgraced and imprisoned for deserting the sinking ship to save the lives of his baby twins. They move to live with their uncle in Missoula, who cares for them but in a largely absent way, leaving the twins to occupy themselves with their older similarly neglected and slightly feral friend, Caleb.
Intrigued by flight after a brief encounter with a married couple stunt team, Marian doggedly pursues a dream to fly, taking whatever steps it takes to achieve this, culminating in her legendary round the world flight. A woman, a victim, a hero, a multifaceted character indeed.
At just short of 600 pages this is one big book, packing a lot of story. Told in two distinct narratives, there is Marilyn’s story from birth through to death and then there is Hadley, a young but troubled Hollywood star who seizes the chance to play the brave pilot, whose disappearance remains a mystery over 50 years after that courageous flight.
Rich in detailed I found myself struggling at times to keep track of all the characters, after a slow start I found my investment in the growing as the pages turned. Reading like a great American novel, this was an interesting read that has received high praise. As the book progressed and especially in the later pages the stories’ past and present began to merge to a truly impressive ending.
A strong, character driven novel that can only be fully appreciated at its conclusion. Not a fast read, but rather a slow dish to be savoured and immersed in. A book that requires time and concentration and probably the right mood or frame of mind. Did I enjoy it, yes absolutely, would I recommend it, yes of course, but take time or maybe have time to read this one, a holiday read possibly I think.
Thanks as always for reading.
About the Author
MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD‘s debut novel Seating Arrangements was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and LA Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her second novel is the critically acclaimed Astonish Me. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller and The Best American Short Stories. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a two-time National Magazine Award finalist for fiction. She lives in Los Angeles, California