First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
An unforgettable, mesmerizing new novel form one of the most exuberantly gifted novelists of her generation, Great Circle ranges from Prohibition-era Montana to the wilds of Alaska to wartime London to modern Los Angeles in an epic tale of two extraordinary women whose fates collide across geographies and centuries.
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 the wealthy bootlegger Barclay Macqueen, who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the best 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, chafing at the claustrophobia of Hollywood and cult celebrity, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after getting fired from a romantic film franchise in the midst of scandal. Her immersion in the character of Marian unfolds alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s destinies – and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different places and times – intersect in astonishing ways. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is an astounding feat of storytelling and exhilarating tour de force.
Happy Friday everyone! I hope you all had a great week and that you are all ending it on a high note. Wow, I just realized that today is the last Friday of September. As the year draws to a close, I hope you all reap the fruits of all that you have worked hard for this past year. I hope you get repaid, 10 times, 100 times more. I also pray that your prayers get answered, otherwise, you get redirected to a better path. I do hope you are all happy and are all doing great, physically, and mentally. With 2022 just around the corner, I fervently pray for this pandemic to end soon; hope still springs eternal.
My September reading month was designed to be an extension of my August New Books reading month, where I read books published in the current year. However, my reading month slowly shifted into a 2021 Booker Prize reading month which is, technically, not much of a deviation from my main motif for the month. I have, so far, completed reading five of the thirteen books longlisted and two of the six shortlisted books. After Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This and Anuk Arudpagasam’s A Passage North, Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, is my third novel from the shortlist; the shortlist was announced just over a week ago.
Even before its inclusion in the longlist, Great Circle has already piqued my interest for it received quite the positive feedback from readers and literary pundits alike; some even issued raving reviews. Now, it is not difficult to be convinced when a book receive such high praises. I was, however, initially reluctant to pick up the book even though it is right up my alley, a work of historical fiction. Hyped books tend to elicit similar reaction from me. In the end, I decided to find out myself what makes Great Circle a compelling read to many a reader.
Great Circle opened with a “journal” entry dated 1950 from a certain Marian Graves but the mystery unfolded as the story progresses. Meanwhile, in the contemporary, we meet Hadley Baxter, a young actress in Hollywood. She grew up under the care of her uncle, an up and coming Hollywood producer, following the untimely demise of her parents. At a young age, she was exposed to the glitz and glamour of but was also left to her own devises. It was in this new found independence that she encountered Marian Graves while reading books in the library. Marian’s story grabbed her attention and when an opportunity presented itself for her to play Marian’s character in a new film, she did not hesitate in signing on the job.
Meanwhile, a second storyline unspooled. This second storyline transports the readers back to early 20th century, charting the story of Marian Graves. She has a twin brother, James. When they were still young, their mother, Anabel, abandoned them while their father, Addison Graves, the captain of Josephina, was incarcerated following the burning of the ship on its way to Liverpool from New York. The twins were then raised by Addison’s brother, Wallace, a reclusive artist living in Missoula, Montana. Her chance encounter with Felix Brayfoygle, a former war pilot and a current travelling airshow man, was pivotal in her dream of flying a plane.
From what I have read so far – I am nearly two-thirds done – Marian’s journey towards fulfilling her dream makes a bulk of the story. Honestly, I thought Marian was an actual historical character (HAHA) but of course she is fictional. This realization made me connect Marian’s story with that of Amelia Earhart, a popular aviation pioneer. As Mandy Moore’s song goes, Whatever happened to Amelia Earhart? Is this somehow a foreshadowing of Marian’s story? This is something I am looking forward to. I am also interested to know how Hadley and Marian’s story connect beyond the superficial ones.
Writing-wise, Shipstead’s writing was accessible and suited the overall theme. However, I do feel like some details were unnecessary; no surprise that the narrative is over 600-pages. Or maybe this is just a knee-jerk reaction on my part and that the significance of these details will eventually surface as the story progresses. Of the Booker Prize shortlisted works, I am having the easiest time with Great Circle. It is to my taste, so far, but knowing that there are still a lot that is going to happen weighs on me. I do hope that Shipstead sustains this momentum.
2021 has shaped up to be my best where the Booker Prizes is concerned. I have read four and is currently reading one. I also have three ready for reading while two are in transit. The possibility of reading all thirteen books is within reach. How about you fellow reader, what 2021 Booker Prize longlisted book do you have on your reading list? I hope you are enjoying what you are reading. For now, happy weekend and as always, happy reading!