Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

5/5 !!! 

Wow, this book has some of the most beautiful writing and transfixing metaphors I have ever read!!! This is not only a great story with a great plot and great characters, but it’s excitingly literary. Rarely does a book deliver on all of those elements. Couldn’t recommend higher. 

HUGE thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for gifting this amazing ARC.
Was this review helpful?
This book has received so many accolades, I am dismayed to report that I just cannot continue with it.  This is a DNF for me as I find the time leaps, character changes to be just to disjointed for my comfort.  Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a chance to take a peek.
Was this review helpful?
A beautifully written historical fiction with a dual timeline. This book is substantial., took me a long time to read it but about 1/4 in I was hooked and. did not want to put it down. This sometime feels like separate books as the chapters and timelines  change there is so much detail.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
I should probably read book descriptions more before requesting them, as historical fiction and loong books are not always my faves, But I had read Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead a few years ago, and I was intrigued enough to dive into Great Circle with full gusto.
This is an epic novel with dual timelines - the majority focused on female aviator Marian Graves and her life in the early to mid 1900s but occasionally interspersed with a modern actress, Hadley, who will be portraying Marian in a biopic. The storylines and descriptions are engaging and engrossing, after the first few chapters (less than 10%) that seemed choppy and difficult to follow. I felt swept away by the book and took my time finishing it to truly savor the ending. I am so glad I spent the time on this book!
Was this review helpful?
I thought Astonish Me was wonderful (though I wasn’t keeping track of reviews back then, so I can’t give specifics) so I was very excited to pick up Great Circle, and I was not disappointed. 

I don’t see as many (non-magical) epic novels as we maybe once did. And that’s fine, but what an incredible gift it is to sink into something so nearly infinite as this. It is not a perfect book, and touches on all the painful things that could happen to a young woman trying to make her own way in the world, but I can say to you that I loved hanging out with Marian Graves every single second. I loved her single-mindedness and her prickliness and I found her fascinating and real, full of casual cruelty and ego: she is the fixed point in a universe she can turn with the tilt of a yoke. Hadley is tougher to be with, selfish and prideful and unsure of what she wants, but in the pairing of the tales there is a question about how we tell our own stories by telling the stories of others. How we hide the truth in our individual ways over and over again. There is, always, the question of what we allow women to be and for me as a reader, there is always, haunting at the edge of the story, the privileges these white women take for granted. This is probably a 4/4.5, but I’m rounding up because it’s just such a big, wonderful leap of a book, with no satisfaction (only questions—a dangerous prospect).

This book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This is an epic, moving, incredibly well-written novel. Due to the length of the book (a little over 600 pages), you have to sink your teeth into it; and trust me, it’s easy to sink your teeth into. This novel is storytelling at its finest.

“An unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost – Great Circle spans Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles.”

The main two protagonists are Marian Graves and Hadley Baxter, but there are many characters and they are all well developed and believable. Marian is the adventurous pilot and Hadley is the modern-day actress chosen to portray Marian in a movie about Marian’s life. This novel takes the reader on many twists and turns and arrives at a satisfying ending.

What I loved about this novel are the writing and the flow. As I read I was swept along on the journey. When Marion and her twin brother, Jamie, were left to their own devices (for the most part) as children, I was right there with them having many adventures. I enjoyed watching their lives unfold as the story went on. The characters that entered were just as vivid as Marion and James. Their childhood friend, Caleb, is another significant character that is a pivotal part of the novel.

I liked how the chapters flowed between the past and the modern-day. Hadley is the main character in the present-day chapters and she is so flawed, and I like that about her. She seems to have it all from the outside looking in, but in reality, she is a perfect example of someone who looks like they have it all: fame, looks, money, status – but she’s pretty miserable. I found myself cheering her on and wanting her to find happiness.

I recommend this book to those who like Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, and Literary Fiction. Honestly, anyone who likes great writing: descriptive, immersive, moving, thrilling, evoking emotion, etc. Also, I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a book with some depth but yet an easy read in that the pages practically turn themselves.

I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I am so impressed with the writing, and it’s such a treat to read a book that the pages just effortlessly flow from one to another. I am always sad to end a good book, but with this one, I felt satisfied. I am thankful to have read it.

Thanks to the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Marian Graves dreamed of becoming a pilot from a young age. Born in the early 1900s, this was an almost unattainable goal for a woman. But Marian is tough and resourceful. She has to be. One of the survivors of a tragic ship fire, she and her twin brother Jamie lose their mother to the tragedy and their father to prison. Brought up by their uncle, they mostly raise themselves, with varying degrees of success.

Many years after Marian's disappearance in Antarctica, Hadley Baxter, an actress will play the role of Marian in a movie. So far, her career has not gone the way Hadley wants, and this is a chance to remake herself. There are many parallels between Marian and Hadley, even though they were born during very different times. It is their inner strength and determination that makes them both characters that I wanted to succeed. 

This book is beautifully written and covers many years, people, and events. In the beginning, I found myself a little bit lost because the timelines shift between characters, and there is a lot of background information on other people that played a part in how their lives were shaped. At around 600 pages, I honestly thought this was a bit longer than was necessary. I don't shy away from big books, but when I finished, I could imagine some parts being cut without damaging this epic tale.
Was this review helpful?
What a ride or should I say flight! Maggie Shipstead has created the perfect summer read book if you are a historical fiction fan. Because their mother died during the explosion of the ship they were on and their father, the captain of the ship, abandoned his duties to save his twin and is now serving time in Sing-Sing, twins Marian and Jamie are raised by their inattentive uncle in Missoula Montana. This gives the twins lots of time to skip school and develop their own interest. Jamie has a love of the natural world but its Marian who dominates the book. She wants to be a pilot and after the end of World War I, is willing to battle her way through chauvinism and smirks of male pilots. The story is made more complicated by the inclusion of a modern-day Hollywood story in which a disgraced Hollywood star finds herself financially being forced to portray Marion Graves in a film. I felt Marian’s sections were far better done than the Hollywood part. And yet when Hadley, the down and out movie star gets serious about researching Marian the parallel stories begin to meld and the reader can see the power of women taking control of their lives.
Was this review helpful?
Wow, just wow! What a book Great Circle was. What a character Marian Graves was. I took me a while to become invested in this novel but once I was I was completely enamored by it. Marian's story was so captivating and propulsive. The Great Circle starts before the birth of Graves twins, Marian and Jamie. it spans Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London. Marian's passion for flying is unmatched. Her obsession with planes starts with meeting a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town. She sacrifices a  lot to have what she wants. And that includes a tumultuous marriage with a  a bootlegging gangster. She goes on to fly planes during WW2 in London and falls in love again.  And the story ends with her final flight= circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles. Or does it?

Marian is a force of nature but she is not the only interesting character here. I loved Jamie, Caleb, Ruth and Eddie as much as I loved Marian. Maggie Shipstead created a great cast of characters. 

Now my only critique is the length of the novel. As with most dual storylines, I found myself drawn to one over the others. I wanted to keep reading Marian's story arc. Actually I couldn't care less about Hadley. I wish the book was solely about the Graves Twins. 

Yes, the book is long but it is totally worth the commitment. It is a sweeping story with vivid characters and gorgeous writing.
Was this review helpful?
Like the main character Marian Graves, "Great Circle" is so ambitious!  Author Maggie Shipstead has really created something special with this novel!  Told through dual timelines, "Great Circle" is the story of Marian Graves, a woman determined to defy convention and live her life on her own terms, and the story of Hadley Baxter, an actress chosen to play Marian in a movie a century later.  From being rescued from a sinking ship as an infant to working for a bootlegger during Prohibition, from earning respect as a rare female pilot in Alaska to flying with the RAF in World War II, from falling in love to attempting to fly around the globe over the poles., Marian's life is packed with excitement, danger, heartbreak, and yes, triumph.  I was utterly and completely captivated by the story and, even though this novel is a lengthy one, I read it very quickly because I just could not put it down.  The book is meticulously researched and so realistic that I found myself Googling the characters to see if they really existed.   I love novels with strong women protagonists, and Marian definitely fits the bill.  I'm sure "Great Circle" will be considered one of the best books of 2021.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the awesome privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this amazing book, in exchange for my honest review.  This is my first book by Maggie Shipstead, but it will not be my last!
Was this review helpful?
This book uses and dual timeline to tell the story of the life of Marian Graves, an aviator who eventually tries to fly around the world from pole to pole.  One timeline is Marian’s life, from childhood until her death, and the other timeline focuses on Hadley Baxter, an actress playing Marian in a movie.  By far, the bulk of the book focuses on Marian’s life.
The story of Marian’s life is a sweeping tale that covers decades.  Not only does the book focus on Marian herself, but also dives into the stories of people in her life (her parents, twin brother, uncle, friends), so in this sweeping tale you get many stories within the larger story.  
I would give this book a solid 4 ½ stars.  Do not let the length of this book turn you off, it is a great story that keeps you coming back to find out what turn Marian’s life is going to take next and where in the world Marian will be.  When starting this book, I thought I knew what the ending would be; however, the surprise at the end (at least to me) made the end of the book and the story that much better.
The beginning 20% of the book does not focus on Marian herself, but rather her parents and people in their orbit.  While this part of the book, in my opinion, was not strictly necessary the story did come full circle as the people whose story was told in this first 20% of the book did come back throughout Marian’s story.
Anyone looking for a strong female lead and a story told across decades and with settings in many places of the world, this book is for you!
Was this review helpful?
I have no problem reading books with 600 or more pages, but I actually dreaded reading this book and seeing I still had over 12 hours or reading! I did finish it just to see what happens to Marian, but I was turning pages very quickly to get to the end. The description of the book was great, but the story was mediocre.
Was this review helpful?
I don’t use the term epic lightly, but at 600 pages, this chonk was quite the epic. 

This book revolves (In circles, perhaps? Ba dum chhh 🥁) around Marian Graves, who becomes an extraordinary female pilot in the 1930s and ‘40s, but is famous for disappearing on her attempt to fly around the world at the North and South Poles. It also switches to the present-day, to a famous actress, Hadley Baxter who is playing Marian in a movie and is struggling to embody who she was as a person.

I won’t lie, the first 50 or 60 pages I was like, where is this thing going? There seem to be several side plots and I did have a bit of trouble keeping them straight during the entire book. I wish I had made just some rudimentary notes of who was who from the beginning. Also, keep pushing through if you’re not feeling it at first. Everything comes together and will make sense. 

This was a beautifully written book all the way through. Do I wish it was a solid 150 less pages? Yes. 😅 Do I also somehow wish that there were 150 MORE pages I could read of this story? Also yes. It was that good. 

The characters sometimes were too angsty and withdrawn and mYsTeRiOuS sometimes for my taste, but I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again - female characters 👏🏼do👏🏼not👏🏼 have to be likeable. 

No spoilers here as always, my friends, but the ending. THE ENDING. Perfection.
Was this review helpful?
I’ve seen so many positive reviews for this book so maybe my expectations were too high, to start. Unfortunately, I felt like this book was trying to be too much, and it just didn’t work for me.
I thought Shipstead did an incredible job of weaving past and present together through Marian Graves and Hadley Baxter’s alternating chapter voices. However, the number of characters was overwhelming, and a character map would have been a huge help! The theme of the “circle” throughout the book had potential, but several chapters focusing primarily on the concept of the circle dragged. The next hundred pages, not mentioning circles at all, left me puzzled.
Between the decades of aviation history, backdrops of Montana, LA, Seattle, New York, war-torn London, Pacific navy battles, 4+ main characters, frequent side paragraphs on circles, and then an added sexuality component, I felt like the book was both too short to cohesively fit everything in while also 200 pages too long (its ~600 pages). If you enjoy books with an aviation theme or a more lyrical writing style, this story would likely deserve a higher rating for you!
Was this review helpful?
You know those books that are so good that when you read them you feel like you are on a totally different plane.  Well, if that is something you are looking for, here it is. Honestly, it has been a long time since a novel has swept me away like “Great Circle.”  Filled with beautiful, lyrical writing, this book felt like a totally immersive experience.  The characters felt full and well developed and both storylines, which feel completely different in tone, were captivating.  

The story follows two women. One timeline starting around 1920 follows Marian, an aspiring pilot who is being raised, in the loosest terms, by her uncle, following her career and life as she grows up.  The second trajectory set in modern-day follows Hadley, an actress set to play Marian in an upcoming film.  The modern storyline reads like most contemporary fiction and whereas Marian’s story almost has a lovely built-in haze around it.   The opposing tones, almost jolt the read between perspectives, creating a great sense of anticipation. 

If you are a fan of “The Goldfinch,” “The Great Believers,” “The Shipping News,” or similar titles, you will want to pick this up. 4. 5 Stars. 

Thank you, NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Sometimes shocking but refreshingly uncensored, casually discussing topics that are often overlooked or considered taboo when writing about female adolescence and sexuality. 

A sweeping historical fiction with a dual timeline. This book is took me a long time to get through it but by 25% in I was hooked and attempting to race through it to find out more (a futile attempt...this one makes you take your time for it). This sometimes feels as though it is bouncing between 2 or 3 separate books as the chapters and timelines change because there is so much detail given in each timeline. This is an investment to read but worth the journey.
Was this review helpful?
I loved the style of writing and the richness of details and the vivid historical background.
Unfortunately I found this book too long and slow and the story didn't keep my attention.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
I just finished Maggie Shipstead.'s upcoming new novel,  "The Great Circle." I found the story to be quite descriptive and lengthy, but 100% worth the investment of my reading time.   The story is of two women, who live about 100 years apart in time but their lives are very parallel .in many ways and somewhat intersect..  I was glad I read this on my kindle  since Shipstead has  quite an impressive vocabulary. I found myself having to use the dictionary a bit, which I loved!   .  Thank you #netgalley and #knopf for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review..
Was this review helpful?
🛩Great core story diluted by distractions🗺

3.5 🌟 stars
The idea of a story dominated by a strong woman carving out an extraordinary, independent life drew me to this novel.  Aviatrix Marian Graves and her artist twin brother Jamie, their passions and loves, were the heart and soul of a compelling story lasting through the bulk of the twentieth century, packed with action and exciting times.  If only the book had been shorter and more focused on them.  I made it to the end but several issues made this read an uphill battle.

Generally, it was way too long.  The storyline is split between two timelines and I quickly tealized the contemporary one did not interest me.  I could see why the actress slated to play Marian in a biopic movie became an instrument for revealing issues in Marian's history that were not generally known, but in large the movie making and the actresses' personal life just seemed a distraction from the main event.

The narrative is written in the third person and I felt it created a distance between me and the characters.  Marian does seem purposely written as a self-contained, independent figure, but I felt a casual observer and I would have preferred a closer connection to the main characters, particularly Jamie and Marian.

I found the author's tendency to create passages of long lists unfortunate.  And it's obvious and admirable that the author knew so much about the period, places and planes that dominated Marion's life but sometimes the detailed sharing of her knowledge was too much.

Basically, the essence of Shipstead's story is excellent but I felt the execution could have been better and much more concise.

Thanks to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for providing a complimentary advance copy of the book; this is my voluntary and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The Great Circle flips between the early to mid 1900s following the life of Marian (and her twin brother) and her passion to become a pilot no matter what it took and present day following Hadley, an actress. I enjoyed this book but liked and connected much more to Marian’s story than Hadley’s. More time was spent following Marian and her journey and I also felt her character was more fully developed. 

Marian and Jamie’s mother passed when they were infants, and they were left in the care of their uncle in rural Montana. They were mostly left on their own and Marian falls in love with planes and flying when two barnstormers come through the town. She eventually is able to take flying lessons and from there has many different journeys in flying throughout her life. 

This book was longer than my typical reads at 600 pages; however, it didn’t drag, though it did take me a bit to get interested in it and to figure out the set up. 

I received a copy from NetGalley and this is my honest review.
Was this review helpful?