Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

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Member Reviews

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.
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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???
#NetGallery $GreatCircle
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This is a really long book and it took me awhile to get into it but it’s a great story with fabulous characters
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4.5/5 stars

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.
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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.
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Great historical fiction with an engaging strong main character. I really enjoyed the shifting time perspective. Loved it.
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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.
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This book felt different from Shipstead's other titles in almost every way except it's scope. Great Circle managed to touch on a lot of different worlds and situations without feeling scattered. Lots of character development and introspection - balm for a book slump.
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I will give this book a four star but in truth, it is really a 3.5. While I understand the plot device of two time periods, I did not care for the Hollywood one at all. This is probably blasphemy, I also did not care for all the scenes that involve aviation. It just bored me. The first half of the book was much more interesting as Marion grew up in Montana, married, escaped, etc. The peak of the book where she goes on her Great flying quest kept putting me to sleep. Honestly there were no characters that I really grew to love. Marion was not very likable. Caleb, the most likable of all, but continually drift back to her but I think that is due to their shared history and knowledge of each other in their brokenness. 
Thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Great Circle
Maggie Shipstead
Knopf
Published 5/4/2021

This is a big story, and at over 600 pages it covers a lot of ground, both physically and emotionally. This story has two timelines: the first explores the life of Marian Graves, born in 1914, who becomes a pilot in a time when that was a rarity; the second is about an actress, Hadley Baxter who is playing Marian in a movie in 201?. There is a bit of a mystery in there, but it is mostly a story about finding your path when you don’t have parents to guide you. Both Marian and Hadley have suffered that loss, and both try to find their way, but Marian’s story is the more in-depth and meaningful. 

I started reading this book in April in anticipation of writing a review before it was published, and I was off to a great start, but then the story started to become too…much, I guess. So, I put the book away for a bit and came back to it after life slowed down a bit, and I really got into it the second time. Sometimes, it’s all about timing! Anyway, I ultimately liked the book. There are some parts of the story that are a bit tedious, and both Marian and Hadley can be frustrating in their self-indulgence and the choices they make because of it. Yet, I found Marian’s story, in particular, to be interesting because of the barriers she faced and plowed through. Her’s is a story of resilience that at times is so heartbreaking that it is no wonder she becomes hardened by it, but she is still able to find herself and to find love.

Overall, I give the book 3.5 stars, and if you like an epic story with characters who, like all of us, are fallible and not always likeable but still gives you hope, then I think you will enjoy this book.

Thank you to Knopf and NetGalley for the ARC.
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This book sounded right up my alley. Set in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Montana the story switches from past and present about a female aviator and a modern day actress. I was super excited to get an advance copy but since I'm just now posting a review obviously it didn't hook me as much as I anticipated. I found the story to be hard to get into. The characters didn't capture my attention and I just found myself having to force myself to read. Overall, it was an interesting concept but it ended up falling somewhat flat.
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Maggie Shipstead’s latest novel, GREAT CIRCLE, was astonishing, sweeping, and unforgettable. Spanning decades and covering a plethora of complex topics- war, love, violence, addiction, loss, adventure, and more- GREAT CIRCLE introduced remarkable characters that I completely fell for. Shipstead crafts a robust story packed with so much substance and so many beautiful details. I would recommend this novel to anyone- but particularly fans of historical fiction and adventure seekers. Upon finishing this book, I immediately ordered Shipstead’s two prior novels. This one will stay with me and I’m sure I will come back to it to experience the adventure all over again.

Thank you to Knopf Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.
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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.
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Great Circle is a beautiful story that unfolds over the course of a century as it interweaves the stories of two women:
Marian Graves was rescued from a sinking ship as a baby in 1914 and raised by her uncle in rural Montana. As a young girl, she falls in love with flying and eventually becomes a world renowned pilot who disappears over Antarctica in the 1950s while trying to complete the first north/south circumnavigation of the earth.

Hadley Baxter is a troubled former child star whose fame has reached new heights as the star of a Twilight-like franchise. But after her behavior gets her axed from the next film, Hadley signs on to portray Marian in a movie about her death and uncovers secrets about the pilot, as well as herself, in the process.

I alternated between reading the physical book and listening to the audiobook, both of which kept me enthralled. The author's way with words is artful and she manages to give every character interesting nuances that fully bring them to life. Marian is a heroine you can't help but love, a feminist who knows what she wants (to fly planes) and won't allow anyone or anything to get in her way despite the expectations and oppression of women at the time. Hadley is the opposite, a lost soul who has it all but makes self-destructive choices to hurt herself before other people can hurt her. While this book could have focused on Marian alone, Hadley's dive into Marian's life story gave it an interesting perspective - Hadley has all of the opportunities Marian would have loved but she can't figure out how to make herself happy. I loved how Marian's story concluded but I wish there had been more of a resolution to Hadley's that showed how playing Marian changed her.

Cassandra Campbell and Alex McKenna narrated the audiobook and they were both terrific. It was more than 24 hours long but I couldn't get enough. The story has it all - a shipwreck, bootlegging, unrequited love, secret identities, WWI and WWII, queer romances, and more, Don't be put off by how long this book is - it's an epic story that is well worth your time!

Thanks to Knopf Doubleday, Penguin Random House Audio and NetGalley for the copies to review.
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Wonderful and completely gripping stories. As it normally happens with these types of books, I found the historical story more compelling than the story set in the present day. Will definitely recommend to others.
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As many have said, this book is entirely too long. I was really invested in the story in the beginning, but it just kept dragging and I didn’t want to pick up the story. I didn’t mind the dual narrative and timeline, but I found myself comparing this to Beatriz Williams’s Her Last Flight, which I read not too long ago. I much preferred Her Last Flight.
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An Epic Story, but I had a hard time getting through it. It’s the story of aviator Marion Graves and her navigator Eddie Bloom who look to circle pole to pole in 1950 and the path of her life getting there. It’s also the story of actress Hadley Baxter who is cast to play Marion in a movie about her life 60 years later.

I really enjoyed the sections about Marion and her life leading to the flight in 1950. I found myself putting the book down a lot during the “Hadley” sections.

It’s a beautifully written book, and I very much enjoyed reading Marion’s story but it was hard to get through.  

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy. 3.5 stars
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This book is told through two timelines: the story of Marian Graves, a female aviator during WWII and the story of Hadley Baxter, a current day actress making a moving about Graves's life. I love the story of Marian and her brother Jamie. It was heartbreaking, inspiring and entertaining. But the story of Hadley contributed little to the story except to make the book way too long. Thankfully the book focused more on Marian, her rise from poverty, her escape from an abusive marriage and the pursuit of her dreams of flying.
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Incredible.  It's sweeping and detailed.   It's moving and heartbreaking.  It's surprising and measured.  It's a real epic and the best book I've read so far this year.
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What a good story. I really enjoyed taking this journey. The writing was amazing. I loved learning about the historical aspects. It was a slow start and it’s a hefty read which is rather daunting in ebook form to me. Thank you for the opportunity to read this story!
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