The Need for Speed

Circling the Sun: A Novel - Paula McLain West with the Night - Beryl Markham

Circling the Sun is about pioneering female pilot Beryl Markham, but you wouldn’t know it for most of the book. Beryl’s aviation adventures act like a frame story for Beryl’s coming of age in Africa, where the story’s real focus lies. She has an unconventional childhood during which she is accepted by the native people and taught their hunting and social customs—but in which she is accepted as a boy. Beryl’s transition to adulthood is a rocky one, and that is where this book loses traction. In between the races Beryl trains horses for, it becomes an African Grey’s Anatomy, and it ain’t over until everyone sleeps with everyone else, at least once—more if it’ll cause trouble and heartache. The cast of characters at this point seems like a feckless group of idlers, and the repetition of bad unions and the inevitable fallout gets old quickly.


This book wasn’t truly compelling to me—I read it in between a bunch of other books, and would only dip into it when I was out and reading on my phone, or when I’d finished other books. Apparently, Markham wrote a memoir called West With the Night. Maybe I would have liked that better.