Writers Abroad Magazine 6 May 2017 - Page 44

WRITERS ABROAD MAGAZINE: THE THIRD SPACE The book is set in 1950s Hong Kong and the descriptions of Wan Chai, where the main characters live, are integral to the book and feel extremely authentic. Since its release the book has been adapted for the stage and made into a film. Available from Amazon Circling the Sun by Paula McLain Reviewed by ALYSON HILBOURNE I read this book thinking it was pure fiction without realising it was actually the story of Beryl Markham—the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. Not until the end did I see the references and author's note and realise it was about a real person. Beryl has an unconventional upbringing in Kenya when her mother leaves her alone with her father, taking her brother to England. Beryl is allowed to run free and mix with the local tribes people. She is wilful and uncontrolled and when her father brings home a new housekeeper/wife who tries to limit Beryl and mould her into a young woman, Beryl rebels. She marries early and rather quickly as her father's horse breeding and training business goes into bankruptcy and the marriage is a mistake. She then embarks on a series of affairs and another disastrous marriage and moves between England and Kenya trying rebuild a horse training business of her own. When she falls for the charismatic Denys Finch Hatton she learns to fly in order to emulate him, and although it is not really covered in the scope of this book, this leads to her transatlantic journey. I loved the beginning of the book with its rich description of Kenya, the land and the people. I also felt it moved along at a reasonable pace. However at some point in the middle it stops being about the country and becomes totally involved with the social scene of the 1920's. The descriptions of houses, clothing and lifestyle are fascinating but Beryl's wild lifestyle becomes very unlikeable. Too many people are introduced to handily keep track of and the movement flits quickly from one thing to another. Perhaps this is Beryl's life but it didn't make a good second half to the book. I found Beryl increasingly annoying and selfish and the last part of the book a disappointment. I do give the story full marks however for a sense of place, and the wonderful descriptions of the countryside, the people and the lifestyle. If nothing else this book has prompted me to reread Out of Africa written by another of the characters in the story, Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). Available from Amazon 43 | MAY 2017