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.