27 Aug 2021

The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Since I read this epic American novel, it has been longlisted from the Booker prize. The judges this year wanted to ensure that the books listed for the award were enjoyable to read - and this one certainly is. And a good lockdown read, as it is long, rich with characters and story - and explores plenty of interesting places, including a nice piece in New Zealand.

shipstead

The novel tells the parallel lives of two women, separated by a few generations - Marion Graves, fictional pioneer aviator, and a young actress, Hadley Baxter, who is to play Marion in a film. Marion and her twin brother have a fascinating backstory - rescued from drowning by their father, captain of the ship, who is then blamed and imprisoned. Raised by their maverick artist uncle, Marion gets her dream of becoming a pilot by marrying a gangster, flies contraband across the border, joins the women pilots in World War 2 and finally, fascinated by the South Pole, sets off on an epic flight around the world - with much happening in between.

The book is epic in scale, spanning the changes of the twentieth century to today's world of Hollywood lives and the perils of being a star. An enjoyable and rich feminist epic American novel.