I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate on the readalong for the Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. Huge thank you to the team at Tandem as well as the publisher DoubleDay for sending me a copy of the book to read and review!
About The Book:
I was born to be a wanderer. I was shaped to the earth like a seabird to a wave
In 1920s Montana, wild-hearted Marian Graves spends her days roaming the rugged forests and mountains of her home. When she witnesses the roll, loop and dive of two barnstorming pilots, she is determined that one day, she too will take to the skies.
In 1940s London, after a series of reckless romances and a spell flying to aid the war effort, Marian embarks on a treacherous, epic flight in search of the freedom she has always craved. She is never seen again.
More than half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a troubled Hollywood starlet beset by scandal, is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves in her biopic, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot’s life.
I thought I would struggle reading this book because of its size. But it was so easy to read. Descriptive, but full with action. Amazing stories of multiple characters, through many years – summed up in compact chapters.
It took me a while to get started at the beginning. I wasn’t sure what exactly was happening, and I felt like a school girl meeting my school friends for the first time. Overwhelmed with many characters, struggling to remember their names. Very soon though, things started to make more sense, and I started enjoying this book so much, that I was unable to put it down.
My favourite character was Marian.
I loved her ambition, bravery and determination to do whatever it takes to achieve her dream of flying. Her competitiveness was also an attribute that I shared with her, and it was so easy to put myself in her shoes. Her longing for freedom and independence is amazingly shown throughout the whole book.
“I was born to be a wanderer. I was shaped to the earth like a seabird to a wave. Some birds fly until they die.”
I also liked James’s point of view. It was nice to see the world from his eyes, as a twin, growing up beside Marian.
“Jamie found he liked how the people he drew gave him permission to look closely and without hurry at their faces. He liked how people became vulnerable when they were about to be drawn, revealed more than they intended with their little adjustments.”
The character I liked the least was Hadley. I simply couldn’t connect with her, although I did enjoy when her character would connect to Marian’s story. Especially when we would get a hint of history through a letter, or a person she meets. However, as a character, she didn’t impress. And the way her story ended led me to believe her character served one purpose only – to help Marian’s story.
I loved the diversity in characters, and how vividly they were all described.
When you met a side character, you felt like you really knew them, even though they wouldn’t be too present in the grand scheme of things. This is something now many authors can manage to successfully accomplish. I admire Maggie Shipstead for being able to do it.
Great Circle is also full of so many amazing facts about history, aviation, historical figures… You can notice how much research has put into this book. So many times while I was reading I would forget Marian was a historical figure. I would have to keep reminding myself that she is a fictional character.
The ending was underwhelming for me, but I think it was because I expected some big twists to happen. The ending just serves as a reminder that not all endings end with a big BOOM. Some go quietly, unnoticed, tiptoeing their way out.
Great Circle is one of the most exciting and emotional historical fiction books I’ve read in a very long time.
About The Author:
Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Seating Arrangements, Astonish Me, and Great Circle, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.