Title: Great Circle
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Publisher: Doubleday, London
Publication date: 2021
Genre: Adult Fiction
Reviewer: Peta Browne, Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Great Circle is a compelling and immersive adventure.
It takes the reader over oceans and continents, between the past and modern day, and on a journey through the ups and downs of life. Marian Graves was “born to be a wanderer”; always restless, always searching for purpose.
After being rescued as a baby from a sinking ship with her twin brother, she is placed in the care of her artist Uncle in country Montana. Growing up with limited supervision she is free to roam and explore.
She meets the Flying Brayfogles, formerly a flying circus act, “…at an age when the future adult rattles [her] child’s bones like the bars of a cage”.
Immediately she knows flying is what she must do.
Despite the curtailed lives of women at the time, which Shipstead deftly illustrates, Marian perseveres in pursuit of her dream, making difficult and sometimes heartbreaking choices.
It culminates in 1950 when she and her navigator set off to fly a great circle around the world, crossing both poles.
The story switches between the past and the present, although the focus and the star of the novel is the historical.
In the parallel modern-day story set in 2014, troubled actress Hadley Baxter is playing Marian in a biopic of her life.
It’s a role for which she feels affinity after the disappearance of her parents in a plane crash when she was a toddler.
A reading kryptonite of mine is novels that weave historical and contemporary stories, so I very much enjoyed this adventure.
Marian’s story is so evocative of place and time, life and love; and Great Circle deserves its nomination on the shortlist for the 2021 Booker Prize.
The Great Circle is a book that has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2021, and is a strong recommendation from Peta Browne.
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