Great Circle – Maggie Shipstead

READ FOR BOOKERTHON

The story of daredevil female aviator Marian Graves and her plans to circumnavigate the globe

⫸ “Marian and Jamie Graves are rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, then raised by their uncle in Montana. After encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes Marian commences her dream of being a pilot.

“At 14 she drops out of school and finds a patron who subsidises her flying lessons, an arrangement that will influence her decisions for the rest of her life, even into her ultimate destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

“A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centres on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. With her own determination to succeed and create an individual life, Hadley is eager to redefine herself by immersing herself into the character of Marian.”

“Not only is Marian’s attempt at circumnavigating the globe detailed but so are many other momentous piloting moments, including mentions of Jean Batten, Amelia Earhart and the role of female pilots in World War II. New Zealand gets a few mentions, too.”

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 have made a promise to myself: my last descent won’t be the tumbling helpless king but a sharp gannet plunge – a dive with intent aimed at something deep in the sea.

⫸ “Great Circle felt like the perfect adventurer’s novel. It dipped and dived into so many different offshoots of stories – sometimes frenetically, other times more languidly.

“Throughout the novel we always knew we were moving closer to Marian’s final flight. Yet somehow this didn’t loom over the story and I felt comfortable settling in and just enjoying what was happening in the moment rather than being distracted by the impending doom. 

“Every story’s thread was tied up by the end of novel but not in a way that felt forced or implausible. This was such an enjoyable read.” – Suzy

⫸ “Great Circle has two interwoven narratives, that of Marian and her determination to circumnavigate the globe, and that of Hadley, an actress who plays her in a film, a hundred years on. The story lines run parallel so we’re able to feed off Marian’s adventures and then observe Hadley as she attempts to re-create them amidst her own 21st-Century woes.

“At 608 pages there is a lot of story and a big cast yet it never feels overwhelming. In fact, every character’s life and loves and successes and failings are detailed so well, its’ hard not to feel attached to them all. The pacing and timing is spot on with narrative drops and plot markers clearly delineated but also anchored to other such markers so there is never any confusion over what Century we are in or where things are headed.

Great Circle has more of a traditional narrative than some of the other genre-busting shortlisters but this epic tome has been structured so well it doesn’t feel any less outstanding. In fact, I couldn’t put this book down.” – Rachel

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Published 2021
Knopf
608 pages

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