Book and Audiobook Review: Circling the Sun

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Originally, we received the hardcover for Circling the Sun (thank you Random House Canada). It is such a stunning book to look at, to hold, to look through the illustrations on the pages. The romance with Circling the Sun begins with its cover, which was something I couldn’t stop staring at, those yellows, like a hot summer sunset, but then when you looked inside there was also a map printed on the inside cover, and at the start of some of the parts, it had the most beautiful illustrations. It was obvious the publisher was making a real investment in this book. As it should have since Circling the Sun was an epic read. The release so it could be included in summer reading lists was well planned, as this was a gorgeous read for lazing with a cool drink on a hot summer day.

 Then I read a review that said the audiobook for it was wonderful due to the lovely British lilt by Katharine McEwan. You know the Hoarders love their audio, especially when the narration is divine. So I decided to purchase the audio version instead. The narration was indeed quite lovely. Katharine McEwan’s voice is matched beautifully with the beautiful writing by McLain.

McLain has written an epic tale inside Circling the Sun. It is grand in scope, and Beryl’s adoring love for Africa, her home, and her life beginning with her early childhood is equally epically told. Beryl Markham was a woman before her time, determined to live freely and became one of Africa’s first female horse trainers. She later went on to break a record for flight across the Atlantic.

McLain treats the readers to many great passages where you felt as though you were physically right there and could see what was happening as it was being told.  It was incredible and it was absolutely delightful to have it narrated to you by McEwan. For instance, there is a scene where Beryl is thrown from a horse and lands just shy of a cobra. The description of the snake swaying and moving into position to strike left me almost breathless. There is another highly memorable scene in which she describes flamingoes taking flight. Simply stunning imagery.

 However, even though the writing in Circling the Sun is gorgeous, there is certainly this tremendously evocative sense of place, and Beryl’s love for Africa and her full life she lived is beautifully and richly described by McLain, I was growing fatigued with the audiobook. I felt as though it was my only friend, I was spending so much time with it.  I ended up switching to the hardcopy (with 4 hours still remaining in the audio version!) because I was ready to be done with the story. 

Beryl Markham was a woman before her time for certain, but the book was more about her romantic dalliances and marriages than it was about the story of her being a pioneer for women in flight. I anticipated hearing far more about her life in flight. It is not until there is 34 pages left where she begins to even consider flying in this story. While most of her life was about training racehorses, yes, I think I was more interested in hearing about her time in flight. She was to break a record in flying across the Atlantic, but we hear nothing about it in Circling the Sun. This information will only appear in the Author’s Note at the end!

Now, not to say I did not enjoy this book, I’m giving it a solid 3.5 stars, it was indeed very good, but honestly, I became increasingly anxious to hear more about her in a plane (which we do not get here, at all) than about her romantic partners, multiple marriages and about the one man she truly loved. Epic in its sense of place and storytelling, yes, but perhaps too much focus and too many pages spent on the romantic entanglements for Beryl Markham and not enough focus on her trailblazing style. I was hoping for more adventure and less romance.

Literary Hoarders Penny rev