That cover. Blech. But, I'm committed to my beloved bookgroup so I powered through my distaste for the pastel-washed art and the overuse of curlicues.
And I'm pleased that I did. The thing I wasn't expecting was that the pages inside this cover housed the life of one bad ass bitch. The first female horse trainer in Africa. The first woman to fly across the Atlantic by herself. But unlike her unimaginable firsts, she was also completely relatable. Beryl Markham was a deeply flawed individual who occasionally used people, betrayed a good friend, made horrible life choices and then was surprised by the consequences of those decisions. We tend to gloss over these aspects of people's personalities, especially when it comes to the history of women. Women need to be everything to everyone, any sign of humanity rips from them their accomplishments in the eyes of history. But Paula McLain allowed us to know Markham, warts and all. She was a real woman. Tough. Emotionally stunted. Strong. Dishonest. Independent. Dangerous. She was all of these things at all times. Which is true of all women. And McLain painted her with a brush that was at once honest and flattering.
I had previously read Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen for the BWR Book Challenge. If you are at all interested in Karen Blixen (who is extensively portrayed in this book as well) and her life in Kenya, I recommend picking up Circling the Sun and reading about her friend and their complicated relationship.