Circling the Sun, Beryl Markham, by Paula McLean



Beryl Markham circa 1930 courtesy Wikimedia creative Commons

Circling the Sun,by Paula McLean is a novel featuring the adventures of Beryl Markham the aviation pioneer who flew solo from east to west across the Atlantic.

British born Beryl Markham spent her life in Kenya as a member of the pre-World War II colonial European expatriate society — the British in Africa, India and China; Dutch in South Arica and Indonesia, (called the Dutch East Indies); Vietnam, (French Indo-China); and China (Europeans and Americans).

I spent my early years in China also as an expat — part of the Far Eastern crowd where my adopted father worked as an agent for the Standard Oil. Several servants cared for us. My Shanghai amah had bound feet. This may be one reason why  I couldn’t put the book down.

Paula McLean brings Beryl Markham’s adventurous years in Kenya to life. Neglected by her father, she is raised as a warrior by her African neighbors. One time she places a dead black mamba in her governess’ bed. Among her many adventures, she is mauled by a lion.

Publishers weekly states that “McLean paints an intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.”


Elephants at Amboseli National Park against Mt. Kilimamjaro courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons

A woman ahead of her time,Beryl Markham became a racehorse trainer, a courageous adventurer, and a writer of her own autobiography, ”West with the Night.” Under Paula McLean’s pen, Markham takes up flying shortly after her lover dies in a plane crash. Assuming the same risks seemd the only path left for her when she says,

“We can only go to the limits of ourselves. Anything more and we give too much away. Then we’re not good for anyone.”

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