For the most part I enjoyed this book a great deal, but as fair warning, I hit a slump between about pages 350 and 450 or so. Keep going! There are still a few more twists and the finale to get through and those are not to be missed.
by Maggie Shipstead
2021 / 610 pages
Read by Cassandra Campbell 25h 16m
Rating: 8.5 / historical fiction
(Both read and listened)
That said, imo, The Promise by Damon Galgut was a more literary family saga and a great choice for the Booker Prize winner, 2021. But I’d like to add that if you’re looking for something light (but not fluffy) and immersive to get through the last days or weeks (hopefully) of the pandemic this might be the thing.
Yeah, at 610 pages it gets a bit windy in places, but how else to cover a person’s whole life when it’s been as full as that of the book’s protagonist. And it feels like a soap opera at times with a lot of sex and love relationship issues. That said, it made the Short List for the Booker Prize and as such was kind of pre-selected for me to read although I don’t read every single one (probably 95% of the Short-Listers though – over the last 15 years or so).
Great Circle has two time frames, one is historical with most of the main events taking place between 1900 or thereabouts to well after World War II. This concerns the life of Marian Graves. The other time frame consists of the years 2014 and ’15 and deals with the story of Graves’ life as the movie version is being produced. (Yes, Graves had quite a life but that part is fictional. The two threads alternate, but there is way more space given to the life of Graves than to how the movie is produced and the life of Hadley Baxter, the Hollywood star.
The plot starts out with a bang in the form of an explosion on the ship where Marian and her twin brother Jamie, still babies, are traveling with their mother and their father is the captain. He saves the babies, but not their mother, and a large number of passengers died as well. After that incident Captain Graves’ lands in Sing-Sing and his life is pretty well trashed because he didn’t go down with the ship which, additionally and unbeknownst to him, was found to be carrying contraband for the war effort.
And then story goes on with Marian’s life growing up with her brother at their uncle’s home in Montana where she discovers she wants to be a pilot. This is in 1924 or so. Yes! And she’s serious. That’s the historical part and one theme revolves around a number of feminist matters. There’s a lot of luck involved as well as determination followed by serious hardship. Her brother has his troubles, too.
It’s a remarkable book, fun, intense, and absorbing.