Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

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Member Reviews

This was a difficult (and lengthy) book to get through, but I found it to be worth the read.

I appreciated the unique way the novel was set up across 2 different time periods, focusing on 2 different female protagonists. Marian Graves, born in 1914, drops out of school to follow her dream of being a pilot. Getting to her goal, however, burdens her with a lifetime debt that she's never able to fully pay back. A century later, Hadley Baxter is an actress that is cast to play Marian Graves in a film about her disappearance and the mystery behind it - and their lives then become interweaved.

The characters are complex and well-developed, the messaging strong and profound, and Shipstead's writing ties the different perspectives and events together smoothly.

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I read this book as a book club pick and we all absolutely loved it! Wow what a saga. It is a big book but I read it over 4 days of my half term as I couldn't put it down. Thank you for arc netgalley and the publisher.

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Marion as a character immediately draws you in and makes you want to learn more about her story. We know early on that her plane goes down in Antarctica but the journey of how Marion gets there is the real story. In this novel we are focused on three separate story lines, Marion's, Jamie's and Hadley's and how each intertwines together. In the end, I enjoyed this novel and the various characters - especially Jamie and his growth. Marion n the other hand was never really a likable character and even though she went through many struggles I didn't feel much character growth. She ultimately felt selfish and single minded. I also felt this story was unnecessarily long. With the multiple timelines and POVs things easily got confusing and I had to remind myself who characters even were as they popped back into the story. I think this story could have easily been half the length and gotten across Marion's life better. Truth be told - the entire Hadley story line could have been cut. It was interesting to see how the movie about Marion's life and Hadley's portrayal of her mixed in, but I kept finding myself wanting to go back to the past and not be in the present day. It was distracting. Also there is a lot of sexual encounters in this story. Some flowed well in the narrative and were necessary, but others felt shoved in and unneeded. All in all, this was a good historical fiction about females in aviation, and I learned a lot, but the extra throughout the novel distracted me too much and made this story drag at multiple points.

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Thank you for the advanced copy of this book! I will be posting my review on social media, to include Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and Instagram!

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Got about 150 pages into this one and set it down. While I feel like I'll pick it back up at some point, I just wasn't engaging with the story enough. A case of me not being in the right frame of mind for the book happened here, and I definitely would still recommend this to people who enjoy large books who take their time with the characters to move the plot along.

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t took me 10 days to read my first book in December because LIFE!

But this one was worth it. The Great Circle is an epic story about Marian, a twin who is orphaned by her living parents in the shadow of a public shaming. Marian and her brother Jamie, grow up in Montana in the "care" of their free-spirited uncle. This storyline takes us through the twins lives and ends with Marian attempting to fly a plane around the globe.

There is a parallel storyline of Hadley, a 20-something present day star of a series that reminded me of Twilight, who, although popular, is alone and drifting. Amid a scandal, Hadley decides to take on a role playing Marian in a movie...

There is so much more to this book. The best part of it is the realistic fluidity of gender that Marian encompasses. She is a girl who wants to fly....a wife who wants to fly....a woman who refuses to be constrained by gender roles. This theme is so well done and is in no way political or preachy.

This book is worth the time investment.

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The story telling in this book was fantastic. I cannot wait to read more books from Maggie Shipstead. I was engrossed in this story from the first couple of pages and didn't want to stop reading. The duel timelines were woven together so well.

The journey we took with Marian to discover who she was and wanted to be and conquering all the obstacles put in her way just for being a woman was inspiring. While her choices may not have been the most upstanding ones, they were the ones that she had to make due to her circumstances.

In the more recent timeline, we see Hadley having to make some difficult decisions in her quest to become the woman and actress she wants to be instead of the woman and actress that Hollywood expects her to be. Through her learning about Marian's story she is able to come into her own, too.

Overall, this is an exceptional story that I highly recommend to everyone that asks me for a book recommendation. It's one of my favorite books of the year.

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Thank you to the publisher for a free copy of this book for review.

Of all the books I'll read this year - Great Circle will be my favorite.
It's been a long time since I've read a book that captivated me so wholly as Maggie Shipstead's sweeping historical epic.

In short, I can't stop thinking about it.

A sprawling novel that spans place and time, Great Circle follows the intertwining stories of Marian Graves, a daring female aviator, and Hadley Baxter, a Hollywood actress hired to play the fictionalized Marian in a movie production based on her life. In alternating point of view, Shipstead sandwiches Hadley's perspective as she researches for her movie role between chapters in Marian's voice giving life to the actual events as they were experienced. The entire book truly comes full circle in the end in the most satisfying way.

I was in love with the descriptions of places and people who pulled the story together. Marian is a force from the first pages and is one of the most memorable characters I have ever read.. Her unconventional upbringing and passion for flight at an early age made her special and unforgettable for me. Parts of this novel felt akin to Beryl Markham's West with the Night, which thoroughly enchanted me when I read it years ago.

There aren't many books of this scale that I would wish to re-read, but as soon as I reached the final page, I wanted to start all over again. This book is absolutely one of the best works of fiction I have read in ages. Highly recommend.

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Marian Graves is a woman accustomed to close calls. As an infant, she and her brother were rescued from a sinking ocean liner. The orphans are sent to live with their uncle, and Marian transports alcohol during Prohibition to keep food on the table. As a teenager, she drops out of school and makes a dangerous bargain to achieve her goals of learning to fly and circumnavigating the globe.
Great Circle is a massive read, and not just in number of pages. Shipstead includes more characters and settings and plot points than most authors could fit between two covers, and she mostly succeeds in making them all cohesive. It's intentionally huge--the characters are people who want to span the globe or be remembered forever.

Marian has known from an early age exactly what she wants to do, and she is unwilling to let anything or anyone come between her and her goal. This lack of consideration leads to problems, which are highlighted through the secondary story of Hadley Baxter, a young actress who is researching Marian as she prepares to portray her in a movie. While the women are living decades apart, both struggle with the spoken and hidden expectations of women when it comes to sex, money, power, and control over their lives.

Shipstead is a writer who has left nothing to chance. While her novel is expansive, nothing is careless. I imagine that a second or third read would reveal connections that we all missed the first time around. Reading Great Circle means deciding to travel the world, cross centuries, and meet characters from bootleggers to WWII pilots to 21st century movie stars. It's evident that Maggie Shipstead loves her characters and you too will find that you need to know what Marian does next.

Great Circle
By Maggie Shipstead
Knopf May 2021
627 pages
Read via Netgalley

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I really enjoyed this one! It’s a bit long for my taste and it took me a few chapters to get into it, but I thought it was a really well done story! If you love anything aviation/Amelia Earhart, I recommend you pick this up!

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A couple days ago I started reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. At 600+ pages it is a literary behemoth, but based on the synopsis, I was eager to dive in. One of the early chapters is about a transgender Native American in the 1800s. Warning bells went off in my head. When one of the main characters has sex with her brother, I knew it was time to be done. Many fellow reviewers put this book in the DNF pile, too, so it was the right decision for me. According to them, Great Circle includes incest, rape, abortion, and gender and sexual fluidity. I’m no puritan, but that's more than my mind can handle, no matter how good the story. I’m irritated that the publisher failed to mention the controversial elements of this novel. If they had, I certainly wouldn’t have requested a review copy.

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There seems to be a common theme to my reviews tonight - the books are all 3 stars! That's probably why it took me so long to sit down and right them. I was intrigued with the description of this book and at first I really enjoyed the story and then it just kept going and going and I started to lose interest. I enjoyed the little snippets of history and learning more about flying. The book is definitely different, at times humorous, strong writing yet mostly unlikeable strange characters!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an early release in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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are there too many digressions? maybe.
did they, perhaps, bog down the pacing? sort of.
was the parallel, modern-day story necessary? not really.
did i mind? not a bit.

while not remotely interested in the history of female aviators, i was nonetheless riveted by this book.

the writing was atmospheric and could be lyrical, but never felt overwrought.
the characters were incredibly specific, and fully realized.
the scope felt epic yet it was the details that really shone.

i very much preferred the marion storyline and found the hadley storyline banal in comparison but, after finishing the book, i felt that the dual storylines made sense as a whole.

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This for me felt like it could have been a much shorter book it was too slow paced for me. I wanted to love it but simple could get into it.

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This novel is sprawling and deserves all the hype it's gotten. It didn't seem like a topic I would typically gravitate toward, but the writing is mesmerizing. Highly recommend to all fans of literary fiction.

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First, I am a fan of Shipstead's work, so I don't come into this one unbiased. Like other reviewers, I found it a challenge to get into this long book at first. However, once I did, it was great. I do agree that it could have been a 100-200 pages shorter and still as effective.

I enjoyed the dual storylines, shifting back and forth 100 years, and found both women interesting and compelling. The characters are a woman aviator and the actor chosen to portray her on film a century later. I quite liked both, but the more contemporary story wasn't quite as grabby as the earlier one. However, I do think that readers like me (I loved The Goldfinch and Byatt's The Children's Book) who are more into long stories that are more character than plot-driven, will like this one.

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I finished this book a few days ago but had to sit with my thoughts before writing this review. Not because I didn’t like it, I loved it! But it’s a huge time commitment - this is a big book. Was it worth it was the question I kept asking myself and I’ve decided yes, it was absolutely worth the time. Told in dual timelines, this is is the story of Marian Graves and her journey to become a pilot and a century later, the story of Hadley Baxter, a popular actress chosen to star in a film about Marian. I did a combination of reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook. Most reviews say they could have done without the present day storyline and if I had only read it in physical form I might agree. However, Hadley on audio is a fabulous character. She really comes to life. There’s romance, drama, and something for everyone in this epic novel,

This was a Read with Jenna pick for the month of May. I usually really like her picks. But this was also short listed for the Booker prize and I usually don’t like the books that make that list. I’m so glad I gave this a chance.

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I really enjoyed the story, writing and the characters. However, I have come to realize that somewhere around 400 pages or so, I am maxed out. I found myself skimming to get to the end. Maybe it’s my age but whew, I can’t do long anymore.

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Hadley Baxter has been cast to play the role of real life aviator, Marian Graves, a daring and adventure seeking pilot of the early 20th century. Graves, who disappeared in a much publicized flight over Antarctica, was a larger than life character. Hadley sees this role as her chance to break out of the stereotypical roles Hollywood has cast her in and becomes obsessed with learning as much as she can about the doomed flyer. There will be inevitable comparisons to Amelia Earhart, famous female pilot of the same era who also disappeared during a highly publicized flight. But this book, tells the story of two women, one hundred years apart who are held prisoner by society because of their gender. A sweeping, grand adventure to get lost in

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This book was a slow burn, but I'm happy I stuck with it. I typically enjoy long, sprawling stories that span decades of a character's life, and this definitely fit the bill. I was a little frustrated that there wasn't too much going on early on in the story, but towards the second half, I was hooked on these characters and curious how it would all end.

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