Hot Best Seller

Great Circle

Availability: Ready to download

Spanning Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles, Great Circle tells the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost. After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute unc Spanning Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles, Great Circle tells the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost. After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There--after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes--Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles. A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian's own story, as the two women's fates--and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times--collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.


Compare

Spanning Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles, Great Circle tells the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost. After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute unc Spanning Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles, Great Circle tells the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost. After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There--after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes--Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles. A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian's own story, as the two women's fates--and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times--collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.

30 review for Great Circle

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    3.5 rounded up. This is an epic saga with central characters being aviator Marion Graves and her navigator Eddie Bloom who aim to fly in a great circle from pole to pole in 1950, Marion’s brother Jamie and actress Hadley Baxter who is cast to play Marion in a film sixty years later. First of all, this is a huge book and it takes stamina to read it. It’s very slow to begin with and extremely confusing. However, the sections concerning Marion and Jamie are really good. The characters of the twins 3.5 rounded up. This is an epic saga with central characters being aviator Marion Graves and her navigator Eddie Bloom who aim to fly in a great circle from pole to pole in 1950, Marion’s brother Jamie and actress Hadley Baxter who is cast to play Marion in a film sixty years later. First of all, this is a huge book and it takes stamina to read it. It’s very slow to begin with and extremely confusing. However, the sections concerning Marion and Jamie are really good. The characters of the twins is vividly portrayed and they couldn’t be more different. Marion is a thrill seeker whose life is colourful and varied, she’s courageous and brave. Whereas Jamie is a shy, sensitive and talented artist. I love reading about Marion’s life which is absolutely fascinating taking us on a circular journey from life growing up in Montana, through the Prohibition years with bootlegging and marriage, to Alaska, the war years and finally the polar quest and much of this is riveting. I like how she ventures boldly into a male dominated aviator world especially in World War 2. The novel is undoubtedly well written, the many settings being richly described as are the momentous events in the twins lives. I find these sections are the most exciting and at times thrilling, especially the latter parts in Antarctica. However, the sections featuring Hadley especially at the beginning do not resonate with me although this does improve towards the end where we learn more about Marion via Hadley. There are some intriguing parallels in their lives which is interesting. Overall, this is an ambitious book and there is certainly much to praise here especially the quality of the writing which whilst being richly descriptive is never overblown. However, the length of the book is exhausting, there are sections which I think distract the attention from the main characters thus overwhelming the really good premise. After much deliberation I’ve rounded my rating up because Marion’s story deserves it. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Random House UK for arc in return for an honest review

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Wow! An amazing and epic novel that spans a century and the entire planet. This book is the story of Marian Graves who disappeared in 1950 while attempting a north-south circumnavigation of the earth. Marian and her twin brother Jamie were more or less orphaned in a shipwreck in 1914, sent as babes to their paternal uncle in Montana and were raised by him. During their coming up years the town is visited by a couple who fly a small plane and Marian becomes obsessed with planes and her only life goa Wow! An amazing and epic novel that spans a century and the entire planet. This book is the story of Marian Graves who disappeared in 1950 while attempting a north-south circumnavigation of the earth. Marian and her twin brother Jamie were more or less orphaned in a shipwreck in 1914, sent as babes to their paternal uncle in Montana and were raised by him. During their coming up years the town is visited by a couple who fly a small plane and Marian becomes obsessed with planes and her only life goal is to fly them. This novel has it all.. shipwrecks, the depression, bootlegging, whore houses, world war, and much more. This is a dual timeline, there is also in current time, an actress named Hadley who is playing Marian in a film. I am glad that the Hadley portions were not long and that the book was mostly Marian’s life because those were the great parts of the book! I will be reading more of this author! Thank you to the publisher through Netgalley for this free ebook!

  3. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    While a story about “the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life” sounded promising, if I had known the book was a 600 page brick, I would have reconsidered accepting the ARC. I’m not against an epic story, but I’ve found it to be a rare book that justifies so many pages. This one is way too detailed with extraneous information, and confusing time jumps of sometimes mere months, sometimes years, and sometimes, inexplicably, years + months as i While a story about “the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life” sounded promising, if I had known the book was a 600 page brick, I would have reconsidered accepting the ARC. I’m not against an epic story, but I’ve found it to be a rare book that justifies so many pages. This one is way too detailed with extraneous information, and confusing time jumps of sometimes mere months, sometimes years, and sometimes, inexplicably, years + months as in “4 years and nine months later”. It’s unclear why this device was used. Finally, I’m not interested in reading about the sexual exploits, abuse, and incest of the characters. It added nothing to the story. A dnf for me - Many readers have loved this book, but, sadly, it is not for me. There are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews so do check out those reviews for an alternate opinion. * I received a digital copy of the book via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    It saddens me but I am slowly learning to just put a book down if it does not resonate with me. I wanted to love this book as it was Jenna Bush Hager's Book of the Month for May. It is 600 pages and I opted for the Audible version. Unfortunately this is a big NO, NO, NO for me! The timeline shifts were weird and I did not care for the characters. I could not warm to Marion and the present day story did not interest me one bit. In fact Hadley annoyed me. I really tried. I pushed it to 8 hours of l It saddens me but I am slowly learning to just put a book down if it does not resonate with me. I wanted to love this book as it was Jenna Bush Hager's Book of the Month for May. It is 600 pages and I opted for the Audible version. Unfortunately this is a big NO, NO, NO for me! The timeline shifts were weird and I did not care for the characters. I could not warm to Marion and the present day story did not interest me one bit. In fact Hadley annoyed me. I really tried. I pushed it to 8 hours of listening time. To me it was just boring. There are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews and I really wish I was not in the minority with this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Maggie Shipstead may have been flying below your radar, but it’s long past time you spot her. In 2012, she published “Seating Arrangements,” a smart romantic comedy about a WASPy wedding in New England. Two years later, she switched registers and released “Astonish Me,” a piercing novel about the cruel and beautiful world of ballet. Her new book, “Great Circle,” is another surprising act of reinvention: a soaring work of historical fiction about a “lady pilot” in the mid-20th century. Indeed, so c Maggie Shipstead may have been flying below your radar, but it’s long past time you spot her. In 2012, she published “Seating Arrangements,” a smart romantic comedy about a WASPy wedding in New England. Two years later, she switched registers and released “Astonish Me,” a piercing novel about the cruel and beautiful world of ballet. Her new book, “Great Circle,” is another surprising act of reinvention: a soaring work of historical fiction about a “lady pilot” in the mid-20th century. Indeed, so convincingly does Shipstead stitch her fictional heroine into the daring flight paths of early aviators that you’ll be convinced that you remember the tragic day her plane disappeared. But this adventure begins in the water, not the air. As Europe descends into the carnage of World War I, somewhere in the North Atlantic an ocean liner carrying more than 500 passengers explodes. As luck would have it, the captain is traveling to England with his wife and newborn twins. When the night is shattered by the first alarm, he has every intention of remaining onboard during the chaotic effort to abandon ship, but in the dark and swelling panic, he fires his pistol and leaps onto a lifeboat while clutching his. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    “Great Circle” tells the story of Marian Graves, a fictional female pilot who disappeared in 1950 while attempting an unprecedented north south circumnavigation of the earth. She had only one leg left in her trip, a final leap from Antarctica to New Zealand, when she vanished, Earhart-style in the South Pacific. “This book is framed as a kind of passage through the world”. Personally— I had a little breakdown while ‘wanting desperately’ to sit quietly and read this book. I needed uninterrupted ti “Great Circle” tells the story of Marian Graves, a fictional female pilot who disappeared in 1950 while attempting an unprecedented north south circumnavigation of the earth. She had only one leg left in her trip, a final leap from Antarctica to New Zealand, when she vanished, Earhart-style in the South Pacific. “This book is framed as a kind of passage through the world”. Personally— I had a little breakdown while ‘wanting desperately’ to sit quietly and read this book. I needed uninterrupted time—but challenges interfered—and I got flustered. I started reading the ebook ( a pre-order purchase)…. I love Maggie Shipstead…will read anything she writes. But… when my kindle died ( new one has not arrived yet)… I switched to the audiobook…. …other interruptions such as physical therapy appointments - maid & yard duties - phone emergency necessities ( our Canadian/ Alberta Calgary daughter is living through a horrific 3rd covid surge lockdown)… I….. was…. ALWAYS ….. planning on returning to ‘reading’ this AMBITIOUS MOTHER-of-all MAGGIE novels….. ……[the audiobook format was just kind of a formality… listening until I could get my hands back on my e-book]….. So…. I kept teeter-tottering between enjoying many parts of the storytelling intertwined with my own damn headaches of concern. And…. Now…. I don’t feel up to reading this novel - right away - when my new kindle ebook arrives probably tomorrow. Bottom line - I finished the ‘audiobook’….. I don’t feel fully satisfied…. Yet…. I feel too burned out at this point to start immediately ‘reading’ it. But…. I want to want to! So…. It’s going on my ‘compassion-permission list’…. meaning ‘read again’ later when in the right mood. I’m giving it the 4.5 stars….but I missed ‘fine details and experiences’ without ‘eyes-to-prose’ engagement. The audiobook narrator, Cassandra Campbell is an ‘audio-reader-pro’….. so nothing was wrong with her reading….. Alex McKenna was great too…. But some books require more of our ‘direct-need-to control-our-individual-pace-by-reading-it-ourselves’…. This is that type of book. It’s simply a massive colossal novel … drama, (a ship explosion at the start), marriages, sex, adultery, moonshine, twins intrigue: (raised by their uncle), friendships, characters with multiple dispositions from inspiring to snottiness, love, sorrow, happiness, redemption, changing settings, duo time periods, ( alternating between being a slow tugboat or tumultuous speed boat), and…. a… very long journey… ….spanning prohibition-era, Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, New York, Seattle, and modern-day Los Angeles ….Marian Graves - a fourteen year old school dropout — was troubled and tormented throughout her life. ….Hollywood actress, Hadley Baxter, who later plays Marian Graves, ( sixty years later), felt chastised from by film critics as a ditzy romantic actress — playing Marian Graves - was with hopes to redeem her reputation. She was also troubled and tormented with ‘herself’. We circle decades of history and aviation…. ….as Marian and Hadley lives parallel… platters of ‘a-whole-lot-more-of-enchiladas’…. keep being served to fill our plates….. of a sweeping 600 page sphere-of-influence. Impressive, ambitious, adventurous…. This novel takes patience…. Yet…. we feel the extraordinary magnificence from this historical literary novel …. with Maggie Shipstead’s lyrical writing excellence.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Hager

    Now, more than ever, I love reading about women who chart their own course. As a mom of two little girls and a young boy, I believe it is important to highlight fictional and nonfictional stories of fierce, independent women who don’t conform to what society says we need to be. The heroines in my May pick, “Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead, do just that. Marian Graves is a woman before her time. Born in 1914, she drops out of school at 14 years old to follow her passion for aviation. She becom Now, more than ever, I love reading about women who chart their own course. As a mom of two little girls and a young boy, I believe it is important to highlight fictional and nonfictional stories of fierce, independent women who don’t conform to what society says we need to be. The heroines in my May pick, “Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead, do just that. Marian Graves is a woman before her time. Born in 1914, she drops out of school at 14 years old to follow her passion for aviation. She becomes a pilot after a wealthy bootlegger provides her with a plane and lessons, a debt she pays back for the rest of her life. A century later, Hadley Baxter is an actor caught in the prison of celebrity culture in Hollywood. When she is cast to play Marian Graves in a film about the pilot’s disappearance in Antarctica, the two women’s fates collide. Both characters although flawed, represent how women can be their own people and how important it is to learn from the stories of the women who come before you. I have been a fan of Maggie Shipstead since reading her debut novel “Seating Arrangements.” While I have enjoyed the beautiful writing in all of Shipstead’s previous books, “Great Circle” is truly epic. I’m not sure I have ever highlighted such an ambitious novel. The way Marian and Haldey’s stories intersect will entrance readers as they dive into this sweeping tale. Told over many years, generations and places, “Great Circle” is about courage and daring defiance.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is a sweeping saga about the life of a very singular and spirited woman and her quest to fly a great circle around the world from pole to pole. It's a big book, rich in detail, beautifully written and hugely absorbing for those who enjoy good historical fiction. Marion and Jamie Graves are twins, dramatically rescued as babies from a sinking ship captained by their father in 1914. With their mother drowned and their father disappeared, they are sent to live in Montana with their bachelor un This is a sweeping saga about the life of a very singular and spirited woman and her quest to fly a great circle around the world from pole to pole. It's a big book, rich in detail, beautifully written and hugely absorbing for those who enjoy good historical fiction. Marion and Jamie Graves are twins, dramatically rescued as babies from a sinking ship captained by their father in 1914. With their mother drowned and their father disappeared, they are sent to live in Montana with their bachelor uncle Wallace, a kindly but dissolute artist who allows them to roam the nearby mountains and forests with their part native Indian friend Caleb, more or less bringing themselves up while Wallace paints and gambles away any money he earns. In 1927, Marion's burning desire to learn to fly is ignited by visiting barnstormers who take her up for a brief flight. With no money for flying lessons, she starts working for a bootlegger and slowly starts saving for lessons. However, impatient with her slowly growing funds she eventually acquiesces to wealthy rancher and liquor smuggler Barclay Macqueen’s offer to pay for her lessons, little understanding what he will expect in return. The novel follows Marion as she learns to fly, works for Barclay, moves to Alaska and then during WW2 is recruited to fly in the UK delivering planes for the airforce. Eventually she teams up with a navigator to attempt to fly the great circle around the poles, leaving Auckland on the last day of 1949. Marion's story is also tied up with that of her brother Jamie, a talented artist and that of their friend Caleb, who will drift in and out of Marion's life. Also interwoven with Marion's story is that of a movie about her life being made in LA in 2014, starring a young actress called Hadley Baxter. Throughout the novel, the author liberally sprinkles in details of milestones in flight reached by other pilots, particularly female ones. Marion’s character feels very much like one of those pioneering women, a strong clear-headed woman who knows what she wants and won’t let patriarchal society stand in her way of being who she wants to be and more importantly having the freedom to fly. I loved Marion’s character and the depth the author brought to her as well as depicting society’s attitudes to women during this period. Hadley on the other hand was more difficult to empathise with. She’s depicted as a shallow Hollywood star who only agreed to act in the movie after being fired, following a drunken one-night stand, destroying the image of her character in a popular series. Early in the book, her role seems to be superfluous and intrusive to the main story. However, later in the novel when Hadley becomes interested in Marion’s life and what happened on her great circle flight, her role in the narrative becomes more important. This is a big book (600+ pages) and it does take a little while to get in to, but I found it well worth the effort for the fascinating story that unfolded. 4.5★ With many thanks to Knopf Doubleday and Netgalley for a copy to read

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    Running moonshine, exhilarating flights, a bad marriage, and a search for the truth define this vivid novel. Don’t let the slowness of the first few chapters deter you. The rewards are many. Beginning in 1914, the framework of the novel revolves around the lives of a thrill-seeking female pilot, her sensitive twin brother, and a childhood friend. In 2014, a famous actress prone to detonating her life stars as the pilot in feature film. Rich in detail, settings, characters, and plot; a flight of Running moonshine, exhilarating flights, a bad marriage, and a search for the truth define this vivid novel. Don’t let the slowness of the first few chapters deter you. The rewards are many. Beginning in 1914, the framework of the novel revolves around the lives of a thrill-seeking female pilot, her sensitive twin brother, and a childhood friend. In 2014, a famous actress prone to detonating her life stars as the pilot in feature film. Rich in detail, settings, characters, and plot; a flight of fancy this is not.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    4.5 stars: Generally, I shy away from tomes of 600 pages. How could I possibly be entertained with one story for that many pages? Conflicting feelings of my love for Maggie Shipstead’s previous two novels, “Seating Arrangements” and “Astonish Me” made me take pause. What lead to my final decision to give the novel a shot was Jenna Bush Hager’s choice of using “Great Circle” for her May book club; Jenna rarely disappoints me. I decided to get the audio version of the novel, as sweeping sagas work 4.5 stars: Generally, I shy away from tomes of 600 pages. How could I possibly be entertained with one story for that many pages? Conflicting feelings of my love for Maggie Shipstead’s previous two novels, “Seating Arrangements” and “Astonish Me” made me take pause. What lead to my final decision to give the novel a shot was Jenna Bush Hager’s choice of using “Great Circle” for her May book club; Jenna rarely disappoints me. I decided to get the audio version of the novel, as sweeping sagas work well in audio (for me). The audio is over 25 hours long, and I enjoyed all the minutes of the story. The narrators, Cassandra Campbell (a favorite of mine) and Alex McKenna were fantastic. The story is ambitious, scanning more than a century. The focus is on two women: Marian Graves who was born in 1914 and grew up in Montana with her twin brother under the unreliable care of her dissolute uncle, and a feral boy neighbor; and Hadley Baxter, a train-wreck of a young Hollywood Star who is to play Marian in a biopic a century later. Marian and her brother were raised in Montana after their mother drown in a tragic ocean liner accident, their father was sent to prison for that accident. Their artistic, gambling, and alcoholic uncle was charged with raising them. Being ill-equipped for the job, their uncle forced the twins to fend for themselves. Marion’s life and her chapters are entertaining and absorbing. Marion gets mixed up with a powerful and rich bootlegger when she was a young teen trying to make money to support her and her brother. Marion also begins a life passion with planes and flying. All Marian’s adventures are what makes reading enjoyable; Shipstead knows how to write absorbing stories that are weaved into one large, involved story. Shipstead also peppers the story with bits of historical information on fellow fliers at the time: Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Jean Batten. Shipstead also involves the reader in WWII flyers and the role that female fighter pilots played in that war. Hadley is difficult to like. Her chapters are shorter, for which I was happy. Hadley is a bit acerbic, well, more than a bit. I think Shipstead used Hadley to poke fun at the absurdities of Hollywood. Hadley also served another purpose: filling in gaps of Marian’s life. Hadley does some sleuthing, and through her we learn more of Marian’s last flight in which she disappears, like Earhart, and presumed dead. This is really a novel about Marian, a feminist before her time. It’s about a plucky, rough and tumble girl of the early 1900’s who scraped by through posing as a boy to make money and to get what she wanted. I was sad when the audio ended. I miss Marian. I even started to like Hadley at the end. Shipstead remains a favored author of mine.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4.5] A soaring, sweeping, satisfying novel that kept me up late for several nights. This is a long book, spanning the lifetime of Marian Graves, whose life is spent chasing her dream of flight. Reading A Great Circle was a treat - an expansive experience. I was grateful for each page!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Well, I was really on the edge here to give this a 2 star rating. But it is fully 2.5 stars. And I rounded it up to 3 stars for the maps, technical descriptions and context to the flying world of that era. It's epic, but at least twice too lengthy as it needed to be. The Hollywood part of it was diverting and for me, uninteresting, gratuitous /vapid trivial. It actually seemed to distract and almost perform negation of the earlier time period's tale and significance when it was placed as it was f Well, I was really on the edge here to give this a 2 star rating. But it is fully 2.5 stars. And I rounded it up to 3 stars for the maps, technical descriptions and context to the flying world of that era. It's epic, but at least twice too lengthy as it needed to be. The Hollywood part of it was diverting and for me, uninteresting, gratuitous /vapid trivial. It actually seemed to distract and almost perform negation of the earlier time period's tale and significance when it was placed as it was for the contents that it held. This book could have been twice as thoughtful and also based to the emotional or intrepid features of Marian's essence -if it had had a violent edit done upon it. It was fully twice as long as a better telling would produce. Shipstead's style of writing is overblown and intensely repetitive. I doubt if I will return to her work. This kind of depth to obsession highlights is never helped by such 1000 irrelevant minutia of redundancies and very little else. Marian Graves didn't feel real to me at all- not even after all these pages. She read stilted into her pilot's obsession and selfish nearly to all other connections entirely. Jamie and Wallace and others- it just seemed sad and that they were placed as planets for Marian to revolve around when she returned to her original orbit. This is probably in the running for sure of top 3 books overrated on Goodreads this year, 2021.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    A simply magnificent work of fiction. What a story. I would give this 10 stars if I could. I just had a feeling when I requested the book that it would be an epic read and it sure was. I kind of loved this book where it is borderline unhealthy. I thought about it all the time, I talked about it to everyone while I was reading it and marveled at how much I learned from it too. Yes, this has a very large cast of characters (some that are very important and others that are only present in the story A simply magnificent work of fiction. What a story. I would give this 10 stars if I could. I just had a feeling when I requested the book that it would be an epic read and it sure was. I kind of loved this book where it is borderline unhealthy. I thought about it all the time, I talked about it to everyone while I was reading it and marveled at how much I learned from it too. Yes, this has a very large cast of characters (some that are very important and others that are only present in the story for a minute), but each character was important. I greatly respect Maggie Shipstead for how big she went with this story. Instead of focusing on Marian Graves by herself, she included those that touched Marian's life (if even in a small way) and this is the kind of story I really enjoy. I want to be fully immersed in someone's life from beginning to end for a story like this and I think it also makes the end more rewarding. Don’t be afraid of the page length. Don’t get frustrated at the beginning. Don’t worry about the stack of books you should be reading instead. Just read this one. This book has everything. Heartbreak, resilience, perseverance, love, courage, and redemption. It has it all and then some more. Thank you so much to Knopf Publishing and Maggie Shipstead for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. Publication Date: 05/04/2021 Review Date: 05/05/2021

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    One of the most stunningly great historical epics I’ve read, just watertight excellent and unrelentingly entertaining. I hugged my copy and said, “this book is SO GOOOOD” so many times my husband was finally like, YES, I HAVE HEARD IT’S GOOD.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    Another one consigned to the dnf file. Cabbages and carrots be gone! 🙄

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nerdette Podcast

    You know that feeling when you read a novel and it's so vivid that you keep wanting to google something to learn more about it? I can't remember the last time a book have me that feeling about as many different things as this one did. It's a bit slow to start, but it's so utterly worth it. This book has everything: women who want to fly, bootleggers, queer love, soaring skies, philosophical notions, surprising beginnings and astounding endings. You know that feeling when you read a novel and it's so vivid that you keep wanting to google something to learn more about it? I can't remember the last time a book have me that feeling about as many different things as this one did. It's a bit slow to start, but it's so utterly worth it. This book has everything: women who want to fly, bootleggers, queer love, soaring skies, philosophical notions, surprising beginnings and astounding endings.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    4.5 stars I was going to be ungenerous and round down rather than up because I intensely disliked most of the Hadley-the-disgraced-movie-star sections. However, the story taken in its entirety was ultimately so satisfying that I decided to give more rating weight to what I loved rather than what I hated.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    “At a moment when so many novels seem invested in subverting form, “Great Circle” follows in a long tradition of Big Sweeping Narratives. I hope we always have literature that forces us to reconsider what the form can hold, but also: One of the many things that novels can offer is an immersive sense of pleasure, a sense that something you’ve seen done before is being done so well that it feels newly and uniquely alive. “Great Circle” grasps for and ultimately reaches something extraordinary. It p “At a moment when so many novels seem invested in subverting form, “Great Circle” follows in a long tradition of Big Sweeping Narratives. I hope we always have literature that forces us to reconsider what the form can hold, but also: One of the many things that novels can offer is an immersive sense of pleasure, a sense that something you’ve seen done before is being done so well that it feels newly and uniquely alive. “Great Circle” grasps for and ultimately reaches something extraordinary. It pulls off this feat through individual sentences and sensations — by getting each secondary and tertiary character right. In thinking about flight (and ambition and art), there is a suggestion that the larger the reach, the more necessary a stable foundation. Here we have an action-packed book rich with character, but it’s at the level of the sentence and the scene, the small but unforgettable salient detail, that books finally succeed or fail. In that, “Great Circle” is consistently, often breathtakingly, sound.” — Lynn Steger Strong in the New York Times “ For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” — Robert Louis Stevenson When the first sentence bounced like an echo in my head, I became very still: “I was born to be a wanderer”. Wanderlust is complicated and fertile ground when it comes to great female characters and Maggie Shipstead’s magnum opus, under its guise of epic and rambunctious historical fiction, is really the most ardent of love letters to women who choose to live deliberately. A love letter to women who defy societal norms, refuse to settle, flee the neatly assigned spaces where they are supposed to graze and instead create their unique and dizzying circles that wrap themselves around the world, fueled by curiosity and propelled by the lure of an ever-shifting horizon. A love letter to women who become lost, to the world and to themselves, in their stubborn quest to find out who they can be, and who still choose to push beyond, push forward, because they can feel in their bones, almost never intellectually, that the great affair really is to move. A love letter to the men who make room for this burning wanderlust, shed their conventional ideals of masculinity in order to watch these women not only run alongside wolves but come fully into their own. And love them all the more for it. A love letter finally to the heartbreaking notion that the circles that we trace are as brilliant as they are fleeting, lighting up the sky like a solar storm and vanishing. A stunning literary feat, as tight a tightrope as you will find, and you will reach the other side, breathless and dazzled.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)

    One of my favorite books of the year so far, although I'll need some time to process how I feel about the pacing as the book wound down. But if you crave literary fiction that also has a proper plot and character development, love yourself and go for this one. One of my favorite books of the year so far, although I'll need some time to process how I feel about the pacing as the book wound down. But if you crave literary fiction that also has a proper plot and character development, love yourself and go for this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Well, I'm slayed. More to come, after I've had time to bring myself back to life. Okay. I woke up in the middle of the night after finishing GREAT CIRCLE and couldn't get back to sleep. The characters and their stories were still flying around in my head. Curses, because I needed the sleep but also, dang, that's a powerful novel that can do that to a person. The novel works in two timelines. The first is in the globe-trotting life of Marian Graves, roughly 1909 to 1950. The second is the contempo Well, I'm slayed. More to come, after I've had time to bring myself back to life. Okay. I woke up in the middle of the night after finishing GREAT CIRCLE and couldn't get back to sleep. The characters and their stories were still flying around in my head. Curses, because I needed the sleep but also, dang, that's a powerful novel that can do that to a person. The novel works in two timelines. The first is in the globe-trotting life of Marian Graves, roughly 1909 to 1950. The second is the contemporary story, set in Hollywood 2014, of a young actress set to play Graves, a legendary pilot, in the biopic. Marian's story, which dovetails with that of her twin brother Jamie, is an amazing one of fear, courage, adventure, longing (oh, the longing!). It is star-crossed lovers, bootleggers and prostitutes, hunters and trackers and bush pilots, artists and drunks. In Marian's timeline, the author takes readers to prohibition Montana, Alaska, Seattle, wartime London, wartime Alaska, a German POW camp, the South Pacific, and finally on a pole-to-pole round the world flight during which Marian's plane disappears. In the contemporary story, actress Hadley Baxter, (I thought of her as kind of a Jennifer Lawrence sort of character) is getting to know herself and Marian in a world where women make mistakes and men are forgiven for them. What Shipstead has accomplished here is nothing short of masterful. The novel is long because the stories are epic and the characters—protagonists and supporting cast alike—are so completely and intimately drawn. Every detail is so considered that, in the end, you realize how many circles are in this novel, how the author has managed to close them all, to give the reader and her characters this sense of fullness, like you've been treated to something special that comes along rarely. Think of this saying: "Oh, the nerve!" This book is all nerve, fluttery and electric and audacious. This is a novel for fans of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr, and Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE, and BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter. It's for fans of movies like Titanic, and A River Runs Through It, and Legends of the Fall (the books and stories, too, yes). It's for readers who love the big sweep, the epic-ness of lives lived, who will stop reading because they need to soak something in, who carry a book around just in case a reading window opens up. This is a book for the Romantic, capital R intended. There are big questions posed here that readers will be forced to ask themselves and to answer for themselves. How do I confront death? How do I confront life? Reader, you gotta read this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    4.5 stars Wow, what a story! Before I go into how much I enjoyed this book, let me start things off by honestly admitting that, actually, I “almost” didn’t end up reading this one, for various reasons. First and foremost, I was intimidated by the page length — when I initially accepted an ARC of this book from the publisher in NetGalley, I had no idea that this would be a 600–page tome. With a TBR a mile high and so many books already lined up to read for the month of July, I definitely felt like 4.5 stars Wow, what a story! Before I go into how much I enjoyed this book, let me start things off by honestly admitting that, actually, I “almost” didn’t end up reading this one, for various reasons. First and foremost, I was intimidated by the page length — when I initially accepted an ARC of this book from the publisher in NetGalley, I had no idea that this would be a 600–page tome. With a TBR a mile high and so many books already lined up to read for the month of July, I definitely felt like I didn’t have the time to spend on a long book (this is exacerbated by the fact that I’m a “one-book-at-a-time” kind of reader who also has problems DNFing books once I start them, no matter how bad the book gets). Second, I was torn by the book’s premise. While I love reading about strong women protagonists, and epic historical stories are usually right up my alley, the part that made me wary was the overarching subject matter. Going into this, I knew that it would be about a female pilot circumnavigating the globe and undoubtedly, there would be a lot of technical language and details involving the mechanics of flying a plane and getting from one point to another (on the first 2 pages, before the story even starts, there is a detailed map charting the main character Marian Graves’ journey - which, being someone who has no sense of direction and is incapable of reading maps, I was completely lost even after staring at the map for several minutes) — given my lack of interest in aviation and airplanes / flying, as well as my general aversion to books that go a bit too much into the “science-y” side of things because much of it usually goes over my head and therefore impacts my ability to enjoy the story, this of course added to my anxiety about reading this book. Third, I had never read this author before and as such, didn’t have the benefit of a positive or negative reaction to previous works to sway me either way. In the end though, I decided to go for it — start the book and hope for the best. And now, after finishing this epic story, I can say for sure that it was absolutely worth the time and effort! This book actually turned out to be completely different from what I expected (in a good way, of course). Surprisingly, none of the fears that I initially had about the book ended up materializing. Yes, there was a lot of technical detail about aviation and airplanes and flying, but it was done in a way that was accessible and didn’t detract from the story itself. Most importantly though, the story wasn’t just about that — in fact, it’s actually one of those stories that truly has something for everyone in terms of the themes and topics that it explores (i.e.: history, adventure, romance, relationships, complex family dynamics, war and sacrifice, love, heartbreak, contemporary societal and gender conflicts, etc.). So far, this is the only book I’ve read that can truly be classified as having a multitude of settings that span the depths of time and space — from modern day Los Angeles in 2014 to a doomed cruise ship in the North Atlantic in 1914, to Prohibition-era Montana, to London and Europe where female pilots helped ferry warplanes for the ATA during WWII, to the wilds of Alaska, to Vancouver (Canada) to Seattle and New York, to the icy depths of Antarctica, to the unknown expanse of the skies above and beyond the clouds — from land to air to sea, this is a story that traverses the globe in a “great circle” worthy of its title. This magnificent, epic tale is beautifully written in prose that is lyrical, poetic, lively, descriptive, and as mentioned previously, also incredibly accessible, given its content. Normally, a big book such as this one would take me more than a week to finish, but I found myself so absorbed and invested in the story and its characters that I felt compelled to keep turning the pages, which resulted in me being able to finish this massive tome over the course of a 3-day holiday weekend. Maggie Shipstead is indeed a gifted writer — I admire so much of what she tried to do with this story, from the impeccable research to the near flawless execution of the story, to the well-developed, realistic rendering of the characters (especially remarkable given the fact that many of the characters in the story were actually unlikable) — all of it came together in fantastic, epic fashion. With all that said, the one complaint that I did have — and the main reason for why I gave this book 4.5 stars rather than 5 stars — is that I didn’t really like the present day story arc involving Hadley Baxter. While I understand the critical role that Hadley played in terms of helping Marian’s story unfold as well as the parallels we are supposed to infer with their personalities and the paths their lives ultimately take, etc., I honestly could not bring myself to like Hadley. She came across as annoying to me and I actually had no interest at all in her background or her “struggles” in Hollywood where she is seemingly “misunderstood” by everyone. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I just couldn’t stand her — thankfully, the chapters about her were extremely short, so I was able to skim majority of the pages about her until I got to the passages actually related to Marian’s life. With such an epic story, it’s pretty much impossible to relay its scope and magnificence through a brief review. This is a story that is guaranteed to be an immersive experience — a rewarding journey that is absolutely worth the time it takes to get to the end. I am definitely glad I got the chance to read this one and of course there is no doubt that I will be exploring Shipstead’s backlist now while looking forward to what she might have in store for us next! Received ARC from Alfred A. Knopf publishers via NetGalley.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura Rash

    I read a lot of books. And I’m not afraid of a big ass book. But this was too long. I think I’d enjoyed it more with about 1/3 cut out. I may be in the minority with my rating here as I’ve noticed it has a lot higher stars than what I rated it, but it was just too wordy and idk how else to describe it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    Maggie Shipstead has outdone herself in this extraordinary tale of resilience and perseverance, constructed with two parallel storylines of two complex women. Marian Graves and her twin brother, Jamie, are raised by an alcoholic/gambling addict uncle, in the wilds of Montana, during the Prohibition days. The fateful story of their parents is told with superb detail in the early pages of the book. Marian and Jamie become well educated in the natural world, where they spend a lot of time, and thei Maggie Shipstead has outdone herself in this extraordinary tale of resilience and perseverance, constructed with two parallel storylines of two complex women. Marian Graves and her twin brother, Jamie, are raised by an alcoholic/gambling addict uncle, in the wilds of Montana, during the Prohibition days. The fateful story of their parents is told with superb detail in the early pages of the book. Marian and Jamie become well educated in the natural world, where they spend a lot of time, and their uncle ensures that their literacy and creative spirits thrive. Besides Marian, Jamie has a story with many adventures, and his fate is inextricably bound with Marian’s. At an early age, Marian becomes self-sufficient and ambitious, especially after witnessing a husband and wife pilot team that visit for a show. She is determined to fly planes--and do whatever it takes to save the money (her uncle squandered much of their inheritance). Marian is disciplined, courageous, and highly intelligent, as well as physically strong. Moreover, she is devoted to Jamie. Yes, she has assistance from a wealthy cattle rancher with a stake in criminal enterprises, but most of her accomplishments were despite him, not because of him. She becomes a legendary aviatrix. We meet Hadley Baxter in late 2014, also raised by her uncle. Her parents died in a plane crash in Antarctica, their bodies never recovered. Hadley is quite young, yet is already a movie star, a household name, thanks to luck and timing. She got into showbiz with the help of her stuntman uncle, and landed the part of a superhero in a film franchise, Archangel. However, at this time, Hadley is a work-in-progress--a navel-gazer, the acme of vanity, who confuses love and lust. Hadley leaps before she looks in almost every area of her life. She hardly “earned” her status--it’s more like she fell into place. The young actress is privileged, frustrating, and loveable. Yes, loveable. Fundamentally, Hadley has a tender heart--she just doesn’t know where she misplaced it. After making millions on Archangel, Hadley impulsively sabotages her superhero role (unlike her counterpart, Marian, who planned vigorously and resourcefully to achieve self-sovereignty against the tide of traditional gender roles). And due to social media, Hadley’s reputation is also in shambles. While at her lowest and most self-pitying, she is offered an opportunity to play Marian in a hagiographic film of Marian’s life. It’s a chance to mature, to step into a new role that could lead to self-agency and self-determination. After reading a book about Marian’s journeys, as well as some of Marian’s pilot logbook, she becomes infatuated with the brave female aviatrix who dared to circumnavigate the globe. The novel is about 75% Marian, 25% Hadley (this isn’t an exact figure, of course). Shipstead is astonishing on all fronts. Plotting, themes, character development, language, and pacing just vibrate off the pages. This epic and startling tale of two women, a century apart, illustrates the “great circle” of life in unexpected and exquisite ways. It also demonstrates that we can only have a limited view of other people's lives, which is framed by our own experiences. Hadley and Marian can be fierce and uncompromising, even as they paradoxically sacrifice-- for a desire to be seen, to be made manifest in magnificent and sublime ways. It’s a sweeping narrative that made me feel special just for reading it. I won’t go into the story details; it’s enough to say that Marian and Hadley’s stories intersect through the author’s masterful and elaborate storytelling talents. Shipstead’s meticulous research adds even more luster to this tale. Interspersed with the parallel narratives are portraits of pilots--mostly female--who have broken records and braved the impossible. For readers who would want to know beforehand--the tale also covers scenes of sexual abuse/assault, graphic at times but eloquently nuanced. THE GREAT CIRCLE will surely be one of my top 10 of the year. “What is the border between life and oblivion? Why should anyone presume to recognize it?”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Suzy S

    I wanted so much to enjoy this book, but despite the occasional beautiful bit of prose, I just couldn’t get there. Shipstead commits what I find to be a writer’s greatest failing — she spends so much time trying to be literary that she forgets to just focus on telling a good story. The outlines for that good story are there, but the author goes down so many rabbit holes that it gets lost. The sexual abuse, alcoholism, abandonment, promiscuity, and drug use were not used to further character grow I wanted so much to enjoy this book, but despite the occasional beautiful bit of prose, I just couldn’t get there. Shipstead commits what I find to be a writer’s greatest failing — she spends so much time trying to be literary that she forgets to just focus on telling a good story. The outlines for that good story are there, but the author goes down so many rabbit holes that it gets lost. The sexual abuse, alcoholism, abandonment, promiscuity, and drug use were not used to further character growth or related to the story line, and yet took up enormous numbers of pages. The first 80 pages alone cover child molestation, alcoholism, drug overdose, parental abandonment, marital infidelity, postpartum depression and suicide! I never felt particularly drawn to Marian, inspired by her or even frankly liked her. Haley was the more interesting “main” character, but she does not receive equal time in the story. Nor does she grow much even though the possibility to do so is there. Another annoyance is that Marian’s journal does not have the same “voice” that we get from Marian as a character. The journal is full of beautiful images and thoughts, while Marian is primarily rough and selfish and lost. Plus the journal uses eloquent phrases that she never actually speaks. Just doesn’t match up, nor do we get some revelation that would explain it. Jaimie was the most interesting of the characters for me. I did enjoy many of his chapters. There are also good smaller characters like Trout and Ruth and Eddie. If the book had condensed the first 300 pages into say 30, and then really focused on WWII and on, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more. However, it didn’t. Alternatively, it could have spent more time weaving the flight with putting the movie together, as it indicated it did on the book flap, and it would have been a compelling story. I would have set it aside except reviews have been so good that I was hoping it would get better. For me, it really didn’t.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    I have to be honest and say that I almost did something I’ve never done. I almost DNF and told Net Galley I would not be giving feedback. I’m really glad that I stuck with it and am now finished and writing a review. I found the first part of the book very tedious. It is understandable that the author wanted to give the reader information about Marion’s family background to better understand why she made the choices she did, but she could have done it more succinctly. I also did not enjoy the pr I have to be honest and say that I almost did something I’ve never done. I almost DNF and told Net Galley I would not be giving feedback. I’m really glad that I stuck with it and am now finished and writing a review. I found the first part of the book very tedious. It is understandable that the author wanted to give the reader information about Marion’s family background to better understand why she made the choices she did, but she could have done it more succinctly. I also did not enjoy the present day storyline featuring Hadley. This storyline helped to tie everything up at the end of the book, but there could have been another way to do that. All that said, I loved Marion. She was a great character who will stay with me for a long time. Her story was great from her childhood to her becoming a pilot and beyond. I particularly loved the World War II part. I’m giving the book three stars. It took way too long for me to enjoy the reading experience for it to be a higher rating which is really too bad.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    GREAT CIRCLE BY MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD Fly on your wings like an Eagle; Fly as high as the sun; On your wings like an Eagle; Fly, touch the sun... The Flight of Icarus Usually in my experience any Author, such as Maggie Shipstead, that has attended the IOWA Workshop goes on to write fantastic novels. I haven't come across a writer who has gotten their MFA from there whose books that I haven't loved, yet. "GREAT CIRCLE," is an epic novel that is magnificently written and it is ambitious at 608 pages. I disa GREAT CIRCLE BY MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD Fly on your wings like an Eagle; Fly as high as the sun; On your wings like an Eagle; Fly, touch the sun... The Flight of Icarus Usually in my experience any Author, such as Maggie Shipstead, that has attended the IOWA Workshop goes on to write fantastic novels. I haven't come across a writer who has gotten their MFA from there whose books that I haven't loved, yet. "GREAT CIRCLE," is an epic novel that is magnificently written and it is ambitious at 608 pages. I disagree with some of the earlier reviewer's whom have written that this starts out slow. I was captivated from the very first page and found the narrative to be immediately interesting. It starts out with describing how if you were to take a knife or a saw and put it through any sphere and divide it into two perfect halves, the cut side of each half would be a great circle: that means that the largest circle that can be drawn on a sphere. An example of that is the equator is a great circle. On the surface of a sphere such as a ball or the earth, the shortest distance between any two points most often than not will follow an arc that is a segment of a great circle. The North and South Poles are points that are directly opposite of each other. They are intersected by an infinite number of great circles. The book is written in parallel narratives of both Marian Graves and her twin brother Jamie and they alternate with Hadley Baxter. Hadley is written in the present which for the purposes of this fabulous historical novel is the year 2014. It starts out with Hadley who I got discouraged every time her character sections came up. She came across to me as a spoiled, boring actress whom she ranted on and on about who she was sleeping with or what boyfriend or fellow actor she was angry about. Her only importance to the story was that she was raised by her Uncle Mitch which was to have in common with Jamie and Marion who was also raised by their uncle. Both Uncle's left the children to their own devices. Marion and Jamie Graves who were born about the time of the First World War and grew up with their uncle in Missoula, Montana. Hadley lived in California and was an adult the whole time. If I was to leave out one character to edit this down I would remove Hadley entirely. Her only purpose was that she was going to play Marion Graves in the movie about the great aviatrix, Marion. Marion was born to fly. From the time she was a young teen she watched a couple of barnstormers who were pilots that raised money by performing aeronautical shows or charging to give the public who watched them perform rides. Marion witnesses this in Missoula and she makes up her mind that she is going to take any job that she can whether it be collecting bottles at first to raise money so she can take flying lessons by a pilot. Her dream is to be a pilot in a mans world. Later she drops out of school and is one day at the local brothel where the prostitutes put make up on her face and a rich businessman that makes a lot of his money distributing moonshine decides that he wants Marion. His name is Barclay. He makes Marion beholden to him by being the benefactor that pays for her flying lessons with a man named Trout. Marion doesn't want to owe Barclay anything so she makes a deal that she will fly Barclay's moonshine in exchange for her flying lessons but he doesn't let her go that easy. Marion and Jamie are twins and they are very close. Their friend Caleb is a hunter and good friend's with both Marion and Jamie. These three character's are really well developed. Jamie is a kind and gentle soul who won't eat meat because he doesn't want to kill the animals. Where Marion is a fast learner and determined to become a pilot which she does and she is a quick learner and talented, Jamie is a quiet, polite artist. When Marion gets older and she is off with Barclay, Jamie goes to Seattle where he meets and falls in love with a tall girl with her two friend's that stop by his sketch pad where he has set himself up doing portraits of people who pass by. He meets the love of his life and he draws all three of the girl's portraits. The one he has his eye on and is attracted to comes back and finds him the next day and gives him the money because she and her friend's forgot to pay him. My main critique of this book in my humble opinion is to edit out Hadley's character. I didn't find one thing redeemable about her character. I think the many characterizations are brilliant besides her. I don't really think she is needed in this story at all. The rest of the character's are relevant. I highly, highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and it is written for both men and women. It is a little longer than it has to be. I was glued to my chair reading this but towards the end it seemed a little too long. I did love the story so I think that this will appeal to a wide audience. I hope that it wins an award. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I know that I will read it again someday. I will be gifting all of my reader friends and family with this when published. Pre-order your copy now so you will have it the date that it is available. Publication Date: May 4, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Maggie Shipstead and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review of this magnificent epic story. I am very grateful for getting a chance to preview this early. #GreatCircle #MaggieShipstead #KnopfDoubledayPublishingGroup #NetGalley

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    As a reader I am inspired by stories that set my imagination afire, bring chills to my spine, tears to my eyes, and comfort in this baffling world. Great Circle is that kind of novel. As a genealogist, I am fascinated by the hidden stories of my ancestors. I can never learn enough to fully flesh out the details of their lives. What it was like to leave their homes and reinvent themselves in a new land? What lead to the seduction that left them unmarried mothers? How did they face the devastation As a reader I am inspired by stories that set my imagination afire, bring chills to my spine, tears to my eyes, and comfort in this baffling world. Great Circle is that kind of novel. As a genealogist, I am fascinated by the hidden stories of my ancestors. I can never learn enough to fully flesh out the details of their lives. What it was like to leave their homes and reinvent themselves in a new land? What lead to the seduction that left them unmarried mothers? How did they face the devastation of a child drowning in the canal they had to pass every day? I only know that they survived, for a while, and then they died, taking their secrets with them. As someday, I will, too. Life throws us into despair--all of us. We give in and give up, or we resist and struggle to the surface of the water, take another breath, and reinvent our life in the after-world. Sometimes there is freedom in reinvention. Sometimes it saves us. Great Circle is one of those massive reads that sweep us across time and history, a long journey into character's entire lives. They are orphaned or neglected and unprotected by unreliable adults, and make their way as best they can. They lose loves and are loved by monsters. Dreams are fragile and come with a cost. Again and again, they must reinvent a life with a new name or in a new place or with a new love or the end of a love. First, there is the story of orphans Marian Graves and her brother Jamie who run wild with neighbor boy Caleb, their adult caretakers unreliable. When barnstormers pass through, Marian becomes obsessed with the idea of flying. Caleb cuts her hair so she can pass as a boy to earn money towards flying lessons by secret moonshine deliveries. Barclay was a criminal, and he was rich, and he was used to getting what he wanted. And he wanted Marian from the first time he saw her as a girl. She entered into a dreadful bargain: he would pay for her flying lessons, and she understood the unspoken agreement that someday she would be his. Trapped into an abusive and controlling marriage, Marian escapes, disappears into Alaska, reinventing herself as a bush pilot. When WWII broke out, she volunteers for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, ferrying warplanes. She meets Ruth, who becomes her great love, and Ruth's gay husband Eddie. But it is Caleb she still turns to when broken. After the war with its many losses, Marian is offered financing to fund her dream of flying around the world, pole to pole, she only trusts Eddie to be her navigator. After Antarctica, they are believed to have been lost at sea. Then there is Hadley, also an orphan and abused by her uncle, who became a beloved child actress, and has a breakdown at age 20. Now, she has a change to reinvent herself in a movie about Marian's life, based on the journal Marian left behind at Antarctica before she disappeared. Hadley goes on a quest to learn about Marian, discovering the truth of what happened on that great circle trip from pole to pole. Marian's story gives Hadley a sense of freedom and control. And, and it can free us, too, showing us how to live with courage even in the darkest of times. How we must know what we want, and to always work for our dreams. This past year has been a horror show of death and fear of death, political clashes and unimaginable chaos, outbreaks of hate and violence. We know full well the disappointments and pain of this world. A story can help us to heal. To know we are not alone, that there is a way to get through the hell and live into a moment of joy and moments of grace that can be enough to live on. This is the gift of literature. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I have long said that almost no book needs to be more than 500 pages long. When books stretch to that length, I often find that they're lacking in focus or filled with overly purple prose. Maggie Shipstead has written an almost-600 page-long novel that often feels like it doesn't need to be quite so long while also feeling like it's rushing through some of its most significant plot points. I know that sounds like a pretty harsh criticism, but I actually really enjoyed Great Circle — it just left I have long said that almost no book needs to be more than 500 pages long. When books stretch to that length, I often find that they're lacking in focus or filled with overly purple prose. Maggie Shipstead has written an almost-600 page-long novel that often feels like it doesn't need to be quite so long while also feeling like it's rushing through some of its most significant plot points. I know that sounds like a pretty harsh criticism, but I actually really enjoyed Great Circle — it just left me wanting a little bit more. The story is primarily about Marian Graves, an almost-orphan who, along with her twin brother, was raised by their paternal uncle in Missoula, Montana, after a disaster at sea robbed them of their parents in 1914. As a teenager, Marian fell in love with the idea of flying and in 1950 gained notoriety after disappearing during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe along the lines of longitude (as opposed to going around from east to west). A century later, actress Hadley Baxter is hoping that a role as Marian in a biopic will help her resurrect her career after a sex scandal cost her the lead in a Twilightesque series of movies. If I'm honest, I often found myself rushing through Hadley's scenes to get back to Marian's, because that's where the real meat of the story lies. Marian is a fantastically well-drawn character living her own kind of life in a world that repeatedly tries to tell her she can't. After a run-in with a pair of barnstormers when she's 14, Marian drops out of school and begins dressing as a boy to try to save money for flying lessons. She maintains a bond with her sensitive brother and their rough-and-tumble childhood friend despite falling into the circle of a powerful bootlegging benefactor. She is fierce, determined, and complicated in unexpected ways. Hadley, on the other hand, was just kind of there to help uncover some long-buried truths about the woman she's ultimately cast to play on the big screen. I honestly felt like most of her scenes could have been cut out if Shipstead had another device for revealing that information to her readers. Her parallels to Marian (both raised by uncles and headstrong in the face of sexism in their respective workplaces) and her problematic sex life just didn't do that much for me. All that being said, Shipstead did a pretty fantastic job bringing everything full circle (no pun intended). I often found myself wondering if some of the deviations from the plot were going to pay off and, for the most part, they did—especially the time spent with Marian's sensitive artist brother Jamie. The only thing that really left me wanting was the suddenness of Marian's decision to fly around the Earth. In a book that's almost 600 pages long, it felt like this choice—arguably the most important plot point—kind of came out of nowhere, and I wish that Shipstead had spent just a little bit more time showing how Marian would feel so compelled to embark on that journey. Regardless, though, I loved this book and can see it landing safely on my year-end favorites list (pun intended that time).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rob Schmoldt

    When you want a 600 page book to be longer, it must be pretty good. Great Circle isn’t pretty good, it’s downright great. Maybe it’s my interest/connection to 20th century aviation or affinity for superior storytelling. It could be all of the terrain, air and sea traversed over multiple woven storylines. Twins? Tragedy? Obsession? It’s got all of it and so much more. It’s a masterpiece I’ll revisit. Highly recommend.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Though it took me 8 days to read this amazing novel it gave me all the feels. Frustration at first in keeping track of all the characters and time lines. I had to start over after the first few chapters and keep a list of characters, time periods and locations, taking notes as I went. Once it all clicked in I was captivated and astonished by the two time lines. Though the female pilot Marian Graves is fictional she is based on many "lady" pilots of the early to mid 20th century. Having read so mu Though it took me 8 days to read this amazing novel it gave me all the feels. Frustration at first in keeping track of all the characters and time lines. I had to start over after the first few chapters and keep a list of characters, time periods and locations, taking notes as I went. Once it all clicked in I was captivated and astonished by the two time lines. Though the female pilot Marian Graves is fictional she is based on many "lady" pilots of the early to mid 20th century. Having read so much 20th century fiction and history I felt confident in Shipstead's research. Marian is the star character, complex, driven, and conflicted. She and her twin brother are orphans and raised by an uncle who barely pays attention to them. Sometimes I think benign neglect as a child rearing method makes for the most interesting people. The Hollywood time line featuring an actress who plays Marian in a movie has plenty of savvy insight into movie making, celebrity culture and the parallels between the actress and Marian are so well done. I will be thinking about this novel forever it seems. Especially the ending!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.