Tag Archive | audiobooks

Book Review: Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain

Beryl Markham may be the most incredible woman you have never heard of.  Of, if you have read this blog for a while, you may remember that I blogged about her memoir a couple of years ago.

Markham lived an incredible life, as the first woman licensed race horse trainer.  She was also the first woman bush pilot in Africa.  And the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from East to West.

Circling the Sun

This historical novel details Markham’s life from childhood to the time of her momentous flight.  Paula McLain researched her life and told the story that many have probably never heard of.

Markham had a significant amount of tragedy in her personal life.  She was born in England but her parents moved to Africa to find their fortune when she was a young child.  Her mother wasn’t happy there, and abandoned her at the age of 5, leaving Africa to return to England with her brother; Beryl and her father remained there on the ranch he had founded.

Her father’s bankruptcy in her teens was the end of her sheltered upbringing; she chose to get married in order to be able to remain near her childhood home, but her husband was a drunk, and both physically and emotionally abusive.  He did not allow her a divorce for years, and when he finally granted it, she was financially ruined. Markham’s second marriage was a disaster too; her second husband essentially used his wealth and power to keep her son from her, while trying to smear her reputation in the process.  She had returned to England with him to have her son, but eventually went back to Africa when she divorced, seeing her son only sporadically.

She had a number of affairs which significantly damaged her reputation, both real and some potentially only errant rumors – either way they affected her standing in society.  According to the novel Beryl found true love in the arms of a man named Denys Finch Hatton, who had a long and committed relationship with a woman whom Beryl also had a lasting friendship with.  Complicated…

After her second divorce and return to Africa, she rebuilt her life training race horses and enjoyed a measure of success that was rare for a woman of the time.  She was introduced to people who were on the forefront of aviation and set her mind to learning to fly.  Sadly, she experienced the death of several close friends in air crashes, including her beloved long-term lover Denys.  She was supposed to go with him that day but stayed home after a close friend and fellow pilot allegedly had a premonition and urged her not to go.  The death impacted her deeply.

McLain tells the story fluidly, and her character development is superb.  Her descriptions of the African landscape show the reader what it would have been like to live in Africa in the nineteen teens, twenties and thirties.  Unlike Markham’s own memoir, West with the Night, which deals almost exclusively with Markham’s professional exploits, Circling the Sun tells the story of the Markham’s personal life in a way that is candid yet non-judgmental.

Markham lived on her own terms, but it was not without consequences.  It was a well written novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

4 stars.

I Digress… But There is a Bookstore in Boise!

The fact that our experience on the Antiques Roadshow set was so darned fast meant that we had the whole rest of the day for touristing!  Except for one problem.  It was 8:30 am.  Nothing we wanted to see opened until 10.  DRAT!  So we headed back to the hotel to drop off our priceless treasures stuff and Jon’s Dad’s Louis XIV vase perfume bottle and headed out to our first destination; the book and music store, Hastings.

Really, I’m surprised that more book stores and music stores haven’t discovered that you could double up your efforts and draw in a whole new crowd.  Jon loves shopping for records, and he could stay there all day.  I can’t.  I putter around the music area for a little while poking randomly at a few artists I know.  If there are movies, I’m good for another twenty minutes or so, as I check out the documentary/history section (usually sorely lacking) and the chick flicks (subjecting myself to chuckles from Jon…).

And, by the way, chairs are conspicuously absent from almost all record stores (occasionally I find one of those circular plastic stools like they have in libraries, but they make your butt go numb after awhile) – this is really poor strategic planning, if you ask me.  HELLO?  If I had a comfortable place to hang out, with books, I could totally be in for the long haul.  The other thing that Hastings had going for it were these pieces of paper taped all over the bookshelves that said – Sale – Saturday Only – All Used Books $2.99.  The fine print said something about the fact that they were only marked down if the regular price was $29.99 and below.

We had actually stopped in the evening before on our way to sushi, and I asked the clerk about the signs.  Are audiobooks on sale?  I’m a huge fan of audiobooks – I listen to them on my treadmill and in the car on those long drives to Portland to see my brother and his family.  But audiobooks are SUPER-expensive.  Anywhere between $25 and $50 for a new audiobook!  OUCH!  As a result, I have never actually purchased a new audiobook.  And even the used ones are pricey – so the only time I ever buy a used one is if I run across a good one at the library book sale.  I usually just check them out from the library, but that is a challenge with some longer audiobooks, because they can be hard to finish in three weeks.  If somebody else has a hold on the same book – no renewals…

Hastings had their audiobooks regularly priced anywhere from $5 to $17.49 for used one.  The clerk didn’t know if the sale included audiobooks, but she went and asked her manager and BINGO!  I was in!  So we had to go back Saturday!  At any rate – I loaded up.  I looked at all of the audiobooks and loaded up my basket with all sorts of great finds!  I got some for myself and some for my parents for their road trips.  I had so many audiobooks that the clerk gave me some really funny looks as she was ringing us up.  It was awesome.  The most fun I have had in a bookstore in a very long time, and I love bookstores!

How about you?  Are you a Kindle reader, an audiobook listener, or a die hard traditional paper book fan?