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“Circling the Sun” – Paula McLain

3.2 out of 4 stars. A strong send off but a boring descent.

I have never read a book based around Africa before. Yes, England is depicted in this story as well, which I am somewhat knowledgeable on, but the backdrop of Kenya is the majority of this tale and something I have only seen on TV. After finishing exploring Paula McLain’s portrayal of Beryl Markham in Circling The Sun my only regret is that I didn’t dive into learning about this magical place sooner. The sheer detail of McLain’s writing left me feeling like my feet were in the sand.

Beryl is only an adolescent when her mother and father left England to try and make a life in the Southern Hemisphere. For Beryl’s mother this was a very difficult transition due to the difference in civilization and she only lasted a few months before abandoning the pair to head back to her original stomping grounds. Beryl is heartbroken. What is a young girl to do without her mother’s guidance?This left just Beryl and her father in the wild along with their neighbors, the Kipsigis tribe. Surprisingly, this upbringing suited her well and she absolutely loved every minute of it. Of course she grew up resenting her mother for her departure but it only left her with even more fondness for her father. That is until she turns 16 years old and a gentleman by the name of Jock has his eye on her and asks for her hand in marriage. It is at this moment she realizes she can not stand behind her father since he has his own dreams to spread his wings somewhere else. Beryl feels again abandoned and within that confusion she decides to say yes to Jock’s proposal. This is the beginning of a tumultuous love life for Beryl and her realizing maybe she wasn’t meant to be tamed.

I was slightly disappointed by how much companionship played a role in this story. The structure of  the book’s goal I thought was based on female power, independence, and intuition. Obviously, if I was in her shoes I would be alone, afraid, and confused as well but she prided herself on being one with nature and knowing how to get through life with her instincts. Unfortunately, this book left me feeling like she was a little bit more self absorbed. Yes, the relationship with Jock was from being too young to know better but the other relationships with Frankie and Mansfield (two other men down the line) were just self destructive and lead to her having to run away from her current situation. Don’t even get me started on her not fighting as hard as she should for custody of her own ailing child!

All in all I LOVED the beginning of this book that showed Beryl’s scrappiness, curiosity, and originality. However, the end with the complicated love triangles, social banter, and trying to fly under the radar attitude left me feeling in shallow waters.

If you are looking for a love story, this is your bet but if you are looking for inspiration, please only read half way through!

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