There are many elements in this story with dual timelines. I loved Marian.s story and thought it was very well written.
Many thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Fantastic book! Below are links to BookBrowse's review and "beyond the book" article. And I have pasted the full text of the review below which was sent to Emily Reardon on July 9.
Beyond the Book: Elinor Smith
Maggie Shipstead's Great Circle follows the lives of two fictional women: Prohibition-era aviatrix Marian Graves and contemporary actress Hadley Baxter, who lands the role of Marian in an upcoming movie. When approached about the film, Hadley has just blown up her life by creating a scandal she knew would likely get her ousted from the franchise that made her career. Feeling a certain kinship with Marian (both were orphaned as infants and raised by dissolute uncles), she accepts the role, dreaming of Oscar glory for her participation in her first "serious" film. Alternating with Hadley's first-person account is the third-person narration of Marian's life, from the circumstances surrounding her birth to her fate decades later.
The bulk of the story is Marian's, and Shipstead fleshes out her life in such believable detail I found it hard to remember the character wasn't a real person. Although Marian's passion for flying underlies every part of her narrative, the book is less about her exploits as a pilot and the lengths she goes to achieve her aims and more about her journey of self-discovery. The author brilliantly illustrates the many factors in Marian's life that mold her into the person she becomes by her last flight. We develop an in-depth understanding of this remarkable character and are loath to let her go.
Hadley's chapters are briefer, and although they cover a shorter time period, her journey feels just as real as Marian's. She's pretty obnoxious at first, a stereotypical entitled Hollywood starlet, but as she becomes more involved with the film and the people behind its production, she develops a complexity that ultimately makes her more sympathetic. As with Marian, the author creates a multifaceted character in Hadley, one who feels real to the reader.
Shipstead's writing is gorgeous from start to finish, whether she's describing the countryside ("October leans into November. The trees are topped with gold, the cottonwoods bright as apricot flesh. The landscape flares and shimmers"); Marion's observations ("With the right instruments, you have a fighting chance of leveling out even if the cloud goes all the way down and brushes the earth like the marabou hem of a diaphanous white robe worn by God"); or Hadley's perceptions ("[S]he just sat there and stared like she was trying to turn me to stone with her mind. Or maybe she couldn't move her face. She's starting to have work done. In twenty years she'll be a skin balloon with eyeholes").
There's just enough of this lush writing to entertain, but not so much that it bogs down the narrative. Also interspersed are bits of aviation history as they occurred during Marion's timeline. For example, the author inserts a couple of paragraphs about Charles Lindbergh's historic transatlantic flight in 1927 that occurs just as 13-year-old Marion is becoming acquainted with a pair of barnstormers who take her on her first flights.
I occasionally find dual timelines confusing or annoying (sometimes the characters are too similar, sometimes the jump between them happens too frequently, sometimes I feel one or more storyline could have been jettisoned, etc.). Such was not the case with Great Circle. Switches between the two stories are so expertly crafted I'm hard-pressed to name a novel that accomplishes this feat more skillfully. At around 600 pages, the book is also quite long; however, I never felt like it was a slog. I'll sometimes come across a doorstopper and think about how it could have been edited into a more manageable length, but not this time; there's not a single sentence I'd have wanted left out. Although I wouldn't call it a page-turner, its pacing is excellent and it kept me engaged, start to finish.
Great Circle is one of my favorites of the year so far, and I'd unhesitatingly suggest it to anyone looking for an exquisite, character-driven work of literature.
Reviewed by Kim Kovacs
I didn’t love Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, although I might have enjoyed it more were the novel shorter by half. We follow two storylines — each feeling like they were written in turn by Kate Quinn and Taylor Jenkins Reid — the primary one of which concerns the extraordinary life of a pioneering female pilot (starting with her parents and their backstories), and intertwined, the story of a modern day movie star and her efforts to reinvent herself as a serious actor by portraying the pilot in an indy film. The novel is stuffed with interesting historical details — the sinking of a Lusitania-type ship at the brink of WWI, rum-running during Prohibition, the RAF’s use of female pilots to move planes around Britain during WWII — but it went on far too long for me, gave too much space to secondary characters (the pilot didn’t need to have a twin brother and I didn’t need to know everything about his life), and took so long to reach the crescendo of the plot that my flagging interest was hard to re-engage. There was much I liked in the pilot’s story, little I cared about in the Hollywood thread, but I appreciate that the chiming between the two storylines — that infinity of great circles that intersected their unrelated lives — was rather the point; there was, unfortunately, no payoff in this reading experience (emotionally or intellectually) that rewarded me for what felt like an overlong engagement.
Maggie Shipstead is a jewel. I fall into her stories and never want them to end. The characters in Great Circle are fully drawn and developed. Their individual lives ensnare, captivate, and intertwine. Told in two timelines, this is one of the generational sagas that is just so, so good. I won’t regurgitate the plot. Read this beautiful story for the exemplary prose, characterization, and tight plot. It’s a novel you won’t want to miss!
This is a story of Marian and Jamie Graves who are rescued by their father from a sinking ocean liner.When their father’s cowardly ways come to light they are raised by their alcoholic uncle.They are left to pretty much raise theirselves.Marian becomes a famous pilot who travels the world during a time when women struggled for equality during the 30s and 40s.This is a great story of a woman who sees so much of the world during her lifetime but still seeks the love that escapes her.Great description of her world travels.
I'm so torn with my review of this one! It took me awhile to get through. While I loved the aspect of Marian and her passion with flying, I felt like the book drug on and on. There were so many things I would have taken out in order to make it a quicker read that held my interest more. I felt like Hadley could have been taken out entirely and just focused on how amazing Marian was. She was fierce and determined...a great heroine for pushing for your dreams with everything you possess. Sometimes dual time periods work really well, and sometimes they don't. I would have preferred this one stayed in the historical fiction time frame. I know many other people have adored everything about this book though, so it depends on each reader's preference!
I received an arc in exchange for my honest review through NetGalley. These opinions are all my own.
I listened to this book in audio and it was one of the longest audiobooks I've ever made it through and totally worth it! I loved that the audio had two narrators to match the book's narrators. I loved Marian Graves' story but wasn't quite as invested in Hadley's story BUT I did love the way they overlap and come together. I thought the plotting was *chef's kiss and overall the story was epic and masterful. I left a star off just because I wasn't sure it needed to be as long as it was...I am already recommending it to people, though!
I added this book to my tbr list a few months ago. It was a must for me.
As a student pilot, very passionate about all that concerns aviation, I decided that this was going to be one of the best reads of the year. And I was not wrong.
Going through Marian's life and later disappearance, I learned a lot about how difficult was life before for someone with such a passion.
Also, we jump into Hadley's life, an actress that is going to play Marian in an upcoming movie.
I found the book very inspiring and emotional. Definitely will recommend it to my friends and colleagues.
he “great circle” is the path that fictional pilot Marian Graves wants to trace — from the North to the South Pole. In reading the story of her accounts, we realize that the collective arcs of our individual stories turn out to be equally stunning. In mapping Marian’s “great circle” of life, from early abandonment as a baby, to life with her twin brother, growing up in the ruggedness of Montana, and serving in World War II, Shipstead paints a sweeping and majestic portrait of an unforgettable and spunky heroine. This is a novel to sink into and savor slowly.
This was a complex, compelling and sometimes poignant view of life. Life about two women and so much more. The parallel stories are brutally realistic und unfair. The smells of life was there. Where they lived with wonder and always brokenness. The narrative was driven by neglect, abuse and grief.
I wanted to stop reading this several times because it’s a long book and it seemed at times hopeless. But I had to finish this. I had to know what happened, if that was possible. I’m so glad I finished it.
The whole thing made me uncomfortable but I enjoyed the writing, the people and the ending.
I can live with the ending.
Thanks Knopf via Netgalley.
Wowza what a read! Thank you to @netgalley and @aaknopf for the #gifted e-arc of this one! At 600 pages Great Circle is quite a journey and one that I enjoyed, but didn’t always love. This is the story of Marian Graves, a female aviator who finds her fame in circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
For me, the length weakened the book a bit. The beginning felt very slow and while the detail you receive paints a fuller picture of Marian's character, it also felt unnecessary at times. The scenes of flying and aviation were the pinnacle of this read and I felt that they were too fleeting, digging into Marian's difficult adolescence and early adulthood more. For many, I'm sure the detail will only help them love Marian more, but for me I think a shorter narrative that focused more completely on her love of flight would have been amazing.
I liked the characters, but I also struggled with them haha. I struggled with the consistent apathy I felt from Marian and Jamie in all arenas except art and aviation. I craved a better sense of growth, though I'm sure many would probably disagree with me in this regard.
I appreciated the parallel of Marian's story with the modern-day actress Hadley, even when Hadley annoyed me. I love a good dual narrative that allows you to jump through time (especially when there are still pieces of the past story to be uncovered in present day).
Overall, I really appreciated this book for Shipstead’s incredible writing and the stunning descriptions around Marian’s passion for aviation and her struggles as a female. The flying scenes were definitely my favorite and for the last one hundred or so pages of the book I couldn't put it down.
Read this one if you like immersive (and lengthy) literary fiction reads and have a particular proclivity for piloting.
I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me a lot of Paula McClain's "Circling the Sun" in that the main story is about a female aviator in the early days of aviation when few women were pilots. The fiercely independent Marian also reminded me of the Soviet Night Witches in Kate Quinn's "The Huntress." Despite the parallels I found with other books, "Great Circle" stands alone. The characters are unique. I loved Marian's fierce independence and commitment to dream of becoming a pilot. Her twin brother Jamie is just as strong a character, often left behind by Marian. His struggles add an endearing diversion from the aviation story.
Interrupting Marian's story in the early 20th century is the 21st century story of Hadley, a superstar actress who has been pigeonholed into being the "Joli" of an on- and off-screen "BranJoli" romantic couple. As I read this part of the story I kept wondering "what is the point of this storyline?" It took a while but eventually the reader learns that the two women's tales converge.
Thanks to Net-Galley for the ARC which I have been too slow in reviewing.
An unforgettable saga of a story, primarily centered around a female aviator Marian Graves, who we follow from her incredible birth and the loss of her parents aboard a sinking luxury liner during the Great War to a remote Montana ranch where she’s raised by her eccentric uncle alongside her twin brother. A chance encounter with barn-storming stunt pilots ignites her life-long passion for flying, and we are off on her grand adventures, following along as she takes chances, married and leaves her abusive husband, and eventually pushes to become the first pilot to circumvent the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
A story in the present is interspersed with Marian’s narrative – a young up-and-coming star (think Kristen Stewart right after the Twilight movies) gets the role of a life-time when she’s hired to play Marian in a new film. While her story is less interesting, it provides a context with Marian’s and was well-written and insightful.
But it’s Marian we want to follow, and follow we do, through a life lived at full throttle, full of triumphs and losses, but always with an eye toward the sky and the freedom it offers.
QUICK TAKE: I listened to this one on audio and it might have been 15325436 hours long. I think it took me over a month to get through, and it's really solid. The book is told in alternating timelines: in one, the story of Marian Graves and her life as one of the first female aviators in the early 1900s; the other story follows Hadley, a famous actress (think Kristen Stewart) who agrees to star in a movie about Marian's life. I found myself skimming the Hadley portions of the book as I found her to be a bit unlikeable and the hollywood stuff a bit too inside baseball for me. I was captivated by Marian's story and I could have read just a book about her fictional life. Ultimately very good, but not great.
This was one of the best books I've read in a LONG time! I've been telling all my friends about it, including those that run book clubs! Ms. Shipstead: can you do a sequel and tell us more about Hadley later on in life???
This is a really long book and it took me awhile to get into it but it’s a great story with fabulous characters
This book was incredible. In a way it almost felt like reading a biography; I had to keep reminding myself that Marian wasn’t a real person and I found myself just totally engrossed in the time period and the world that Maggie Shipstead created. It’s clear that a lot of research went into this and the whole scope and ambition is very impressive: the dual timelines, the multitude of characters, and especially the inclusion of real-life aviation history.
This is undeniably Marian’s story though, and to be honest I didn’t really care that much about the present storyline. I liked the framework of being able to look back at Marian’s life and there were certain moments when things connected that really worked, but overall I didn’t bond with any of those characters.
Great Circle is much more slowly paced than the novels I usually read and at times it felt overly long, but the way everything came together at the end was so satisfying and made me really appreciate how the story was woven together. I wouldn’t say it’s the right fit for every reading mood, but the last couple hundred pages especially were incredibly engaging. I definitely ended it on a high and I’m looking forward to reading Shipstead’s previous books.
Synopsis: The lives of two women,Marian Graves, an aviator and Hadley , a movie star , born centuries apart are bound together by fate . Their lives , though spend years apart resemble each other's rather oddly and Hadley is playing Marian Graves in a breakthrough movie. Marian Graves, one of the pioneers of female aviation has become a part of history /in her words been lost to the future and Hadley is on the way to create history.
Review: This is an epic journey and spans about 700 pages. The beginning was quite intriguing with the life of Marian's father , but later dragged on to include so many unnecessary details and sexual exploits of every trivial character.- wasn't necessary ; this wasn't supposed to be an erotica, was it?This spans upto about fifty percent of the book, which is to say that the story begins after this fifty percent. I was extremely bored and almost on the verge of DNF ing the book, but somehow read on because of the rave reviews and ratings. For any reader, who picks up this book with a view of getting some inspiration , the above can be a reason for total letdown; as in my case I did get adrenaline surge, not from inpiration ; but from rage .It was like, at one point I cared for none of the characters.
The latter half is quite enjoyable and reminds you of books like The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo. The book deals with female aviation and has blended historical aspects including the world war quite well. The book reflects on abusive marriage, the hushed LGBTQ life back in the 1930s , desires and dreams and much more, that is to say, this had all the ingredients for a perfect and loveable , re- readable one, but for the great lag. The writing shifts between the past and the present, which I do enjoy , but maybe tiresome , atleast for some. I would say that had this book been heavily edited upon, this would have been more enjoyable. If you have the patience to go through this humongous book , you may enjoy it.
Great historical fiction with an engaging strong main character. I really enjoyed the shifting time perspective. Loved it.
I struggled to finish this book. While I very much liked the character development and the story line, I felt the book was far too long at 609 pages. I also thought the supporting characters were much more likable than the two main characters, Marian and Hadley. I only started to feel empathy for the female leads in the final 100 pages. At that point, I just wanted the book to end. The book is beautifully written and well-researched. I wanted to love it, I just didn't.