Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

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Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead, is a compelling historical fiction novel about a ground-breaking female aviatrix in the 20th century.  Marian Graves and her twin brother James are rescued as infants from a sinking ship in 1914.  They are sent to Missoula Montana to be raised by their father’s brother.  It is during her time in Montana that Marian learns to fly airplanes, and becomes driven by her ambition to soar higher and faster that dominates the rest of her life.
In the book’s alternating timeline, in 2014, actress Hadley Baxter is a starlet in Hollywood who is tapped to play the role of Marian Graves in a biopic.
The novel is truly sweeping in its scope, spanning several continents and historical periods, even referencing the glaciers that produced Missoula’s topography and the earlier Native American residents of the region.  The prose is lyrical and the featured strong female protagonist is a well-drawn complex character that, as a reader, I found sympathetic as her family relationships, loneliness, loves, and losses play out in the story.  The rest of the characters do not have a similar depth.  Hadley seems shallow, although there are threads of connections between her life and Marian’s that were interesting.  Most of the male characters are flawed and some are downright nefarious.
The book is clearly well-researched and beautifully descriptive but, in my opinion, too long.  I would have enjoyed it even more at a length of less than 500 pages.  But I appreciated very much the strong female protagonist and the alternating timelines that encompassed so much history of the past 100 years.  I would recommend this book to readers who look for the same genre.

Thank you to Alfred A. Knopf publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.  This is my unbiased review.
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I am in awe! Absolutely speechless! This book took me to heights I didn’t think I’d ever go. The writing is superb and the story is beautiful, raw and genuine. This book reminded me that we are all flawed narrators and that our story matters. This is the best book I’ve read so far in 2021!
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I LOVED This book. A unique voice in an era that has become saturated. If you are a fan of the Huntress or the Rose Code, you will LOVE This.
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This is my first book by Maggie Shipstead and I loved it!!!!!!!!!! If you are a fan of historical fiction this one is definitely for you. I highly recommend this book.
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I saw this novel mentioned several times online with readers loving it. I wanted to love it. I loved some of the strong characters. But the novel was too long to me and very slow to start. It took me awhile to get into it and even then it never pulled me in the way I had hoped it would.  It starts in 1914 in Montana and covers aviation, prohibition, war, art, and present day Hollywood. The main character is Marian and it covers her life and fascination with being a pilot.  I found Hadley and her Hollywood lifestyle  distracting from the novel.  I have seen where this novel has been selected for some book clubs and I do think it would, be a great discussion.  Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.
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Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead is a book that is truly epic both in time periods encompassed and actual length.  The book starts of with an actual tragedy in the 1920s of a sinking ship and the captain making the unconscionable decision to abandon his ship to save his twin babies.  You are then taken on a journey of more than 80 years from the far reaches of Montana, NYC, London and of course the clouds.  

The girl twin, Marian, saved becomes a famous aviator and pushes the boundaries of her gender almost from our first meeting with her,  Truly an unforgettable character.  We also meet the modern day actress, Hadley, cast to play Marian in a movie.  Hadley has her own challenges and the exposure to the life story of Marian can help her find redemption.

This book grabs hold of your heartstrings from the start and does not let go.  You also are educated gently on a history that few may know anything about.  Shipstead is a masterful weaver of past and present timelines in a way to bring much understanding.  Happiness and sorrow are intertwined with grace and these characters will not soon be forgotten.

I was provided a free advance reader copy from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review on Net Galley.  The opinions shared in this review are my own.
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This book does historical fiction very well: it creates a specific set of moments in time inhabited by characters who are of the moment, whether breaking through social conventions or being confined to the times. 

It also juggles stories of the past and present well showing the ways they are connected without seeming overly contrived.

The writing is polished and flows along smoothly with sophistication—forward momentum and specificity.

A recommended read! Sorry to see the story end.
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Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. Genre: Historical Fiction. Location: All over the world. Time: From early 1900s until 2015. Note: This is a really long book. Don’t get discouraged. It’s an epic adventure worth finishing!-
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In 1914, newborn twins Maggie and Jamie Graves survive a ocean liner sinking in the Atlantic Ocean. Sent to Missoula, Montana, USA to be raised by their gambling, hard-drinking uncle, they lead a neglected life until 14 year old Marian falls in love with flying. She finds a benefactor in a wealthy bootlegger, which begins a tense and controlling relationship lasting for years. Her ultimate goal is to circumnavigate the globe from North Pole to South Pole.-
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A century later, famous and troubled actress Hadley Baxter is chosen to play Marian in a film. An orphan herself, Hadley finds herself wondering about Marian’s true story.-
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This is an epic story that spans decades and continents. While Marian is the main character, it also follows many other characters whose lives intersect with Marian and Jamie. It travels from WWI to prohibition to WWII and beyond. The characters change with the times, and Marian keeps her goal of flying first in her heart. One reason the book is so long is that the author includes many stories of real female pilots over the years. I almost think this could be 3 books: a book about daredevil Marian, a book about her sensitive artist brother Jamie, and a book about their wildly independent and lifelong friend Caleb. It’s 4 stars from me with thanks to NetGalley. Knopf Doubleday publication date: May 3, 2021. 🌵📚👩🏼‍🦳”-
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A captivating story! This book drew me in right from the beginning. Maggie Shipstead did an amazing job of keeping the reader wanting more and turning the pages. As the daughter of a pilot I have an even better appreciation for the love my father had being in the sky. This is a must read and I highly recommend it to all.
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The strength of this book, the prose, was also what made me dislike it some. I just don't think this book needed over 600 pages to tell the story. Shipstead's writing may be viewed as superior by a lot of readers, but honestly I just wanted it to end. This is not a usual review for me, because I tend to give 5 Star reviews as long as I'm happy at the end of the book. The only thing I was happy about was that I didn't have to read it anymore.
I did finish the book. I was surprised at the ending, which is good. However, I'm still asking myself why everybody in the book was either cheating on someone or sleeping with someone of the same sex. Just not for me.
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Great Circle is a richly spacious novel about a bold female pilot who feels simultaneously larger-than-life and intimately real. Marian Graves leaves behind a logbook from her final flight in 1950, when she attempted to circumnavigate the globe longitudinally. “My last descent won’t be the tumbling helpless kind but a sharp gannet plunge,” she writes, just before disappearing over Antarctica. A fictional character, Marian sits alongside historic aviators like Amy Johnson and Elinor Smith, whose tales are highlighted in asides, but her path is her own.

Marian’s early life is similarly dramatic. As infants in 1914, she and twin brother Jamie are saved from a burning ship and sent to Missoula, Montana, to stay with their uncle, an artist with a gambling problem. Two barnstormer pilots ignite Marian’s urge to expand her world, but flying lessons are costly and inappropriate for girls. Seeking direction and funding, she forms a reluctant attachment to Barclay McQueen, a wealthy, controlling bootlegger. Jamie, a vegetarian and pacifist, is equally captivating. Like Marian, he enters into relationships that spur him to confront his values. Their stories run alongside that of Hadley Baxter, a contemporary actress whose messy love life is sabotaging her career. By playing Marian in a new biopic, she hopes to begin anew. Hadley’s account initially feels superficial in comparison, but as she researches her subject, the timelines have an exciting interplay, and missing pieces click into place.

The characters’ journeys encompass many locales – 1920s Montana, wild remote Alaska, WWII England with the Air Transport Auxiliary, a cloud’s opaque, dizzying interior – yet the research feels weightless. The vast black crevasse Marian glimpses while flying over western Canada comes to symbolize life’s darknesses: how do we move past situations that threaten to swallow us whole? Imbued with adventurous spirit and rendered in gorgeous language, this is an epic worth savoring.

(from the Historical Novels Review, May 2021)
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I was provided a free copy of this by @netgalley and @knopfdoubleday in exchange for my honest review! 
This was a pretty epic historical fiction story (just over 600 pages)! In it we follow the life of Marian Graves (born in 1914) as she grows up through many historical events (especially prohibition and WWII), becomes an aviatrix, and ultimately is lost as she tries to fly a great circle around the Earth from pole to pole. In more modern times (2014) we learn out about Hadley Baxter, a popular actress who is cast to play Marian in a biographical movie and has many troubles of her own.
I finished this book about a week ago, but have been conflicted on my feelings of it and what to write. On the one hand I stopped reading at one point to Google "Marian Graves" because I couldn't remember if this was based on a real person, and Marian seemed very real to me! But on the other hand, it did feel long and arduous at times. The beginning definitely took some time to get into, and I found myself not excited about Hadley's storyline. When the narrative would switch I was often anxious to get back. Hadley was a difficult character to like. I do feel she got some redemption as the story progressed, and I appreciate what she brought to the end, but for most of the book it was a struggle.
Thankfully the story was focused more on Marian and her adventurous life, so ultimately I decided to give it four stars! 
This is set to be published Tuesday (May 4th), so definitely add it to your TBR and look for it soon!
#NetGalley #GreatCircle
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Thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. I've read Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements by the same author, so I was anxious to read Shipstead's newest book. It's also received a good deal of press in the months leading up to its publication. I enjoyed this book as I did her others. There were a lot of well developed characters who will stay with me for a long time.
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Wow! This novel is an epic, sweeping story spanning the entire life of twins Marian and Jamie Graves. From their conception and birth through their entire lives - challenges, heartaches, dreams, and failures. It also simultaneously follows Hadely, a modern day movie/TV star going through her own challenges and finding herself, while playing Marian in a biopic.

This is not an easy read, counting in over 600 pages, but worth it by the end to understand such interesting and varied lives and experiences. Marian's story span Prohibition, World War 2, and beyond, with some great travel and adventure writing as well as some truly heartbreaking events throughout as well. This is historical fiction at it's best - both character and plot driven.

I actually enjoyed Hadley's story the most, which is probably less than 1/3 of the book, but both timelines were interesting. 

The only caveat I have is the length of the book - yes, it is sweeping, but it did drag for quite a bit (kinda like life) around halfway mark.

Overall, this is a beautifully written beautiful story that does get where you want it to in the end!
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If you like long family saga type books, pick this one up 
For me it starts out a bit confusing and it took me awhile to figure out what was going on. It’s told in alternating timelines and parts where more interesting than others.
It’s a bit too long for me and drags at times.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
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I have to be honest and say that I almost did something I’ve never done. I almost DNF and told Net Galley I would not be giving feedback. I’m really glad that I stuck with it and am now finished and writing a review.  I found the first part of the book very tedious. It is understandable that the author wanted to give the reader information about Marion’s family background to better understand why she made the choices she did, but she could have done it more succinctly. I also did not enjoy the present day storyline featuring Hadley. This storyline helped to tie everything up at the end of the book, but there could have been another way to do that. All that said, I loved Marion. She was a great character who will stay with me for a long time. Her story was great from her childhood to her becoming a pilot and beyond. I particularly loved the World War II part. I’m giving the book three stars. It took way too long for me to enjoy the reading experience for it to be a higher rating which is really too bad.
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This book is not a novel—it's more like three novels, put into a bag and shaken up and reconstructed. I prefer to read one story at a time. The narrative is dry and unemotional, and I couldn't connect with any of the characters. I don't care what happens to them. This book is not for me. DNF at 16%.
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Wow, this is a book I both loved and hated, but I could not put it down!  This is a story, beautifully written, about people, particularly women who don't know who they are or what they want out of life.  One, Marion Graves, is destined to become a pilot, one of the brave women who flew during WWII transporting planes from one place to another to "free up" the men to do the "important" work!  At home only in the sky, Marion is a fully developed character I adored, but wanted to shake hard several times.  James, her brother, is an artist with his own story, just as complicated and imaginative as Marion's.  Almost every character in this novel, even the minor ones, are carefully drawn and became real to me.  Cable, Hadley, Barclay,  Ruth, Eddie, even Joey Kamaka at the end were fully realized human beings with their own idiosyncracies, personalities and lives.  Yes, the book is VERY long, but so worth while reading.  Once I was fully into the novel, I was hooked and read almost continuously for three days (I read fast!).  Allow this book to capture you as the entirety of it is wonderful!  I did have some qualms about Hadley, the modern-day parallel to Marion, her life and her inability to control her urges, but they are minor in the face of the entire novel.  This is written so well that I fully believed Marion Graves existed!  Thank you Alfred A. Knopf for letting me read an Advance Copy.  All thoughts are my own.
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I enjoyed this book. The pacing and the characters were well thought out. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.
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3.5 stars
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I was drawn to it because I love stories about female aviators and read everything I can get my hands on about Amelia Earhart's last flight. 
What prevents me from rating this higher is the length of the book. The last 10-15% is wonderful. The characters, the writing, the story itself- all wonderful. But it took me like 500 pages to get to that point. So many unnecessary details woven into the beginning.
I loved the story and wish that it could have been told in less than 600 pages.
I would recommend this to others, but caution prospective readers of its length.

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for the ARC!
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