CIRCLING THE SUN was a fascinating read, although the story stopped long before Beryl Markham's story was over. I did find that the author's notes in the back of the book really connected a lot of the dots, supporting what I had already found.
Before I began reading the book, I did a bit of research, because while I was familiar with the Out of Africa story, I did not realize that she was entangled in a well-known love triangle involving Isak Dinesen (real name Karen Blixen) and Denys Finch-Hatton, the two principals of that well-known story. It seems that Beryl Markham was deliberately not mentioned in that book, written after Finch-Hatton's death, although there was genuine affection between the two women. Unfortunately they were in love with the same man, the daring Mr. Finch-Hatton, and as they say today, "it was complicated."
|McLain is an outstanding writer.|
There is tragedy, many of them in fact, sadness, daring, hope, and lifelong friendship in this story. Beryl was abandoned by her mother, who left her father with another man, returning to England from Africa when Beryl was a small child. Her mother was a real piece of work, turning up a couple of times in later years, always needing something. Isn't that the way it usually goes with long-lost relatives? She was a larger than life character, totally amoral, sometimes described as a libertine, who followed her own instincts. Yet, for all her daring and bravery, training horses, becoming a commercial pilot, she was subject to the dictates of her husbands, one of whom (#2) who took away their son, just because he could. Markham, that husband #2, was a world-class snob, and also left her to return to England to be with his even more snobby mother. Another serious Mama's boy -- you all how I love those.
Absolutely fearless her whole life, Beryl Markham flew solo across the Atlantic in 1936. Not to spoil the read for you, I won't tell you any more of the story. She did write about it herself in the above book, which should arrive in the mail today. I am so looking forward to her version. It didn't do well in the beginning, but Hemingway jumped on the bandwagon because he thought it was wonderful, and it was later republished, giving her a bit of income in her old age. She was said to be living in poverty back in Africa by then, but she never seemed to care about much of anything material but her horses and her airplanes. She died at age 83 in the mid-1970s.
I do think anyone who enjoys a good story, particularly a real one about a real person, will love Circling the Sun.
Linking up this post to Literary Friday at Ricki Jill's blog Art @ Home.
Here are a few of the articles I found about Beryl Markham if you are interested in reading further.