Friday, May 13, 2022

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead


Marion Graves and her twin brother Jamie were only six weeks old when their first brush with notoriety occurred.  They were passengers on the cruise ship their father captained when it ran into trouble and capsized.  Many died including their mother and their father was shamed since he chose to save the babies rather than be the last man on board.  He was imprisoned and the twins were sent to Montana to be raised by his brother.

The uncle had no idea how to raise children and was an alcoholic.  He basically let the children run free and raise themselves.  Marian fell in love with flying when some barnstormers came through town.  She was determined to do whatever it took to learn how to fly, dropping out of school at fourteen so she could earn money.  Marian married young to a bootlegger who wanted to control her.  Marian flew the liquor into the States for him but eventually left him to be free.  She ran to Alaska and took another name, living under the radar and flying visitors and supplies into small Alaskan towns.  

Later she was a pilot in World War II, one of the women who flew transport craft from the factory to where they were needed.  She met Ruth and Eddie, a couple she grew close to.  Ruth was also a pilot and Eddie was a navigator.  After the war, she was at loose ends until she met with a woman of great fortune who offered to sponsor Marian's dream.  That dream was to fly around the world, flying over the North and South poles, a flight that had never been made.  Marian could not be dissuaded and took off with Eddie as her navigator.  They never made it and their bodies were never found although the last sighting of them had been in Antarctica.  

Now, one hundred years later, an actress is hired to portray Marian in a film about her life.  The actress, Haley Baxter, has a fellow feeling for Marian.  Haley's parents had been killed in a plane crash when she was a small child and she was also raised by an uncle.  Haley became a child star in Hollywood and then when a scandal broke, she was hounded off her movie and television career.  She needs a comeback badly and the film about Marian might just provide it.  But as she reads the script, starts to make the film and researches Marian's life, she thinks she has found out some of Marian's biggest secrets.  What should she do with this new information?

Maggie Shipstead has written a novel that is fascinating about a woman who won't be boxed into anyone else's thoughts about what she should do.  The novel has been nominated for both the Man Booker Prize and the Women's Prize For Fiction.  Marion is a mysterious woman, determined to do whatever she chooses rather than following society's strictures.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

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