Friday Book Whimsy: When the Stars Go Dark

Author Paula McLain has written a number of historical novels. I’ve read them all, and enjoyed them very much. From her writing, I have learned about Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, Beryl Markham and her love affair with Denys Finch Hatton, and Ernest Hemingway and another of his wives, Martha Gellhorn.

I was surprised to learn that the author had undertaken the challenge of writing a distinctly different kind of book — a detective mystery story of sorts. Since mysteries are one of my favorite genres, I was eager to read the book. It met my expectations and beyond.

Anna Hart works as a detective in San Francisco, where she specializes in finding missing children. A tragic event in her own life — for which she blames herself — forces her to take a leave of absence from both her job and her husband and child. She moves back to her home town of Mendocino to try and pull herself and her life back together. It was in Mendocino that she spent the best years of her life with her much-loved adopted parents.

Unfortunately, she no sooner gets to Mendocino and a young girl goes missing. Despite her own psychological problems, Anna can’t help but get caught up in the search for this girl. It reminds her of her own childhood in Mendocino when one of her friends is murdered and the case remained unsolved. Before long, the search for the girl becomes oh-so-familiar, as the past connects with the present.

While this is not a historical novel, I liked the way the author tied in real-life cases and real-life people into the novel. It gave the story a realistic feel and made the book even more readable.

I enjoyed the book very much. I hope the author undertakes this type of book again. I would even like to see the return of a more-at-peace Anna Hart.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Circling the Sun

imgresI loved author Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, and so it was with great glee that I dug into Circling the Sun. While it took a while to capture my interest, once it did, I couldn’t put it down.

I had never watched the movie Out of Africa, which is the story of Karen von Blixen-Finecke (portrayed by Meryl Streep in her early years) , the time she spent living in Kenya, and her relationship with Denys Finch Hatton, hunkily played by a youthful Robert Redford. In that movie, there is a brief plot element dealing with Finch Hatton’s unfaithfulness to Blixen with a young woman, called Felicity in the movie.

The novel Circling the Sun is the story of that young woman, who in real life was Beryl Markham, a fascinating woman in and of herself.

Markham moves with her family from England to Kenya, where her father purchases a horse farm. It isn’t long before her mother and her brother bail, moving back to London and leaving Beryl with her much-loved father.

Markham grows up wild and independent, strong and willful, and spends the rest of her life living that way. In this novel, Markham’s relationship with Denys Finch Hatton is much more prominent and impactful on her life. Since it’s a novel, I’m not sure where the truth lies.

Circling the Sun, nevertheless, is an engaging novel about a woman who was way ahead of her time (just before, during, and after WWI. Her mother’s desertion had a deep impact on her life and her ability to trust people who love her.

McLain opens the novel with Markham’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, she being the first woman to make that flight. At the end of the first chapter, Markham is spiraling down towards an apparent crash. The rest of the novel leads the reader toward that moment.

Quite frankly, if all I knew about Markham was what I read on Wikipedia, I wouldn’t like her at all. McLain’s portrayal is much more sympathetic. I wonder what I would think if I had actually known her.

I highly recommend this book.

Here is link to the book.