Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

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Member Reviews

The story of Marian Graves kept me intrigued from the first to the last page (which is really something considering the book is over 600 pages). Marian doesn’t know what she wants out of life except that she is meant to fly. Flying during prohibition and through WWII leads Marian to attempt a flight around the world, from pole to pole. 

Told from multiple different perspectives this book tells the whole story of Marian’s life and her legacy and by the end I felt like I truly knew her. I don’t feel like I have ever read a book that painted such a complete picture of a character.  This story and the emotions expressed in the novel will stick with me for a long time.
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You won't be able to put this book down.  I loved every page, all 600 plus.  Thought provoking, read at your own risk characters, page turning adventures, you will want to go where the book takes you because of  the descriptions of the country.  Maggie Shipstead did an amazing job of writing this story.  READ!  When finished you will know these characters, inside and out.
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If you want to immerse yourself in the life of a strong female protagonist, this is it. Marion Graves is lightyears ahead of her time (1914), and there’s absolutely nothing that can stand in the way of her dream: fly, fly, then fly some more. What a beautiful and lyrical tribute to a character who embodies so many women from her era, many who are noted throughout the book as a reference to the time period. 
Marion and her twin brother Jamie have a terribly rocky start to life, and thanks to the care, or lack thereof, of their guardian uncle, they basically raise themselves. Filled with beautiful detail, well-described thoughts and deeply moving viewpoints, their life and times are a mesmerizing saga.
In a dual perspective (2014), we meet Hadley, an actress with similar roots as the twins who has been contracted to play Marion in an in depth movie. I found Hadley to be an empty shell in compassion to Marion, and I wondered why her character was even involved. While reading, I was always relieved to turn the page and find we were back with Marion again. But this didn't affect the overall impact of the book and it’s story- the life of a strong, independent, lonely and private woman who loves to fly.
Sincere thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date was May 4, 2021.
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If you like to follow characters through various phases of their lives, if you have interest in women's aviation, if you want a real feel for Antartica and what drives an adventurer this story is for you. The story follows Marian and her brother Jamie through the decades while concurrently following current day Hadley who is making a film about Marian's life. I wasn't as enthralled with Hadley's story though it does come together but it just wasn't as compelling to me. I kept wanting to get back to Marian and Jamie to see what life was going to throw at them next. Highly recommend. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Holy cow there is a lot going on in this book!  And it's a long story!  I didn't think it was going to end.  It's interesting how the dual storylines are tied togther.  It starts out slow and takes a while to build into it - I almost quit about 20% into reading, but felt it had to get more interesting - and it does!  

Thank you to NetGalley for a timed, digital ARC in return for my review.
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This is a really wonderful story that I hated to see end.  It was a very different kind of story in that there is no real romance between any of the main characters but each just had their terribly sad backstory that kept them from establishing any meaningful lasting relationships.  All had significant childhood scars that would have been challenging even with lots of therapy and more normal lifestyles but all their inner self destructive tendencies be it through sex, drugs, cutting, alcohol or just always being on the verge of destroying any chance of happiness that came their way really almost assured a bad outcome.

There are two parallel stories constantly shifting back and forth.  The first is about a set of twins who survived a cruise ship exploding and sinking as infants just prior to the Great War and were raised by an uncle in rural Montana .  Marian desperately wanted to learn to fly from the first moment she saw barnstorming pilots as a young girl just as Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic and was quite willing to do absolutely anything to accomplish this no matter the cost.  A chance encounter with a wealthy bootlegger allowed her dreams to come true but with lots of  strings.  The story follows her through flying in Alaska to escape her husband and later on to England where she flew to help the war effort.   For her, flying was as essential as breathing.  Eventually she decides to fly around the world from the Arctic to the Antarctic starting in New Zealand.

The second story is about a young Hollywood star whose parents died in a plane crash when she was young and was raised by her uncle in Hollywood.  She wants to play the part of Marian in a film as a world class pilot who goes missing in Antarctica while on a flight to fly over the poles.  She decides to really find out more about this long missing early pilot so that her film performance will be true.

This is a wonderful book and I am so glad to have had the chance to read this early advance copy.  The end is well thought out and very well imagined.
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Great Circle is an epic! There’s no denying Maggie Shipstead is a phenomenal writer and Great Circle is her best work to date. Great Circle is a novel that will stay with me for a while. It starts a bit slow, but I soon found myself enmeshed in the life of Marian Graves. I wonder, though, why was her story alone not enough? What does Hadley add and is it necessary? I guess she provides a way to learn the full story of Marian, but I am uncertain if that could have happened in another way. Overall, Great Circle is a wonderful story!
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Maggie Shipstead's haunting story of a a daredevil aviatrix who lives life by her own rules, and the parallel story of a spoiled A-list actress who is cast to play the female aviator a century later, absorbs and educates as the circles spiral and entwine both lives.  A long read, this epic tale starts slowly but reaches its destiny as Marian Graves flies from Prohibition-era Montana through Alaska then wartime England before she sets out to circumnavigate the globe flying over both poles.  

Hadley Baxter, like Marian, is orphaned as a young child and then raised by a well-meaning but distracted uncle. Acting for Hadley is merely a vocation, however, not the avocation Marian has for flying. But both women chaff under the demands of cult celebrity and seek self-determination.  It's Marian's story that pulled me in and dominates the book.  Epic and meticulously researched, the reader stows away with Marian through the dawn of commercial aviation, then struggles with Hadley as she unravels the enigma of Marian the person. 

"Great Circle" is a worthy read.  Thanks to the author, publisher & NetGalley for the ARC.  Four stars.
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Great Circle is a epic, vivid and magnificently written. I was pulled into the atmosphere immediately.
The characters, aviator Marian Graves, her twin brother Jamie and navigator Eddie Bloom are central to this story. In present day, fast forwarding sixty years, we meet actress Hadley Baxter who has been cast to play Marian
Raised by their uncle, Marian is adventurous and born to fly. Jamie is quiet, kind and an artist, very close but equally different.
Marian will drive a truck and run moonshine to pay for flying lessons and her dream of flying the Great Circle, pole to pole. Determination fuels her and her strength guides her through moments of fulfillment and despair.
Hadley Baxter’s acting career has hit a snag after another scandalous affair. The role of Marian Graves could be her moment to soar, redeem herself and her career.
Maggie Shipstead beautifully weaves the lives and fates of the characters. Their story is spellbinding and filled with emotion.
Well recommended and enjoyable.
Thanks to NetGalley, Knopf Publishing and Maggie Shipstead for leading these characters into my life.
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This is going to be a hard review for me to write -- while i did not LOVE the book, i'm glad i made myself finish it.  The book opens with the rescue of two infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914.  The novel tracks their lives across America and beyond as Marian pursues her dream of becoming the first pilot to circumnavigate the globe going over the north and south poles.  The infants are twins and their characters are written well: very different from each other.  Marian is the thrill seeker and Jamie is the shy artist.  In the present day Hadley is an actress who is going to portray Marian in a movie based on Marians' flight log book./ journal.  I didn't have a problem with the story going back and forth between time periods. I did find it a bit confusing when the author would backtrack in time a few months while telling the story in the past.    Just seemed a lot of back and forth for me.  Honestly , I was not impressed with having to read about Hadley's sexual exploitations and her lifestyle.  It did not add to the story at all for me.  If I didn't need Hadley to help pull the ending together I could have done without her entirely.  She was a character I could not get into too.   The book was  a very slow start for me and I found myself wanting to give up many times.  However the story of Marian and Jamie, in the end was very good so i'm glad i stayed with it. The last 25% of the book was probably the best.  The ending was well done and a bit of a surprise.  while it was not my favorite, I would recommend it as a read.
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Thanks to @netgalley and @aaknopf for an advanced copy of this book. I enjoyed it. There is a preface from the editor in my arc that talked about how amazing and epic the book is. I think maybe that built up my expectations a little. Whereas I did like the book I thought I was too long and maybe a teeny bit pretentious. About half way through I was ready for it to be over and I still had 300 pages to go. 
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The book is this sweeping tale of two children who are not raised by their parents. We have no idea what happens to the mother and the father abandons them after a stint in prison. While technically he committed a crime he wasn’t actually responsible for the catastrophic incident. The book mainly follows the daughter, Marian. In the 1920’s at a young age she decides to become a pilot. She is determined not to let her lack of parents, money, or bring a girl stop her. It’s not an easy road but she doesn’t care about it being easy. It follows her through prohibition, an abusive relationship, becoming a excellent pilot, flying in WWII, and eventually trying to circle the globe in an airplane. 
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I did like the book. However, I’d have liked it more had it been a third shorter. This book will be available on 5/4/21.
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Maggie Shipstead brings fictional characters to life through this adventurous multi-narrator story. The novel spans from the childhood of Marion Graves through her career as one of the first female pilots, to her ultimate disappearance. Readers also get to know and root for her twin brother Jamie, a burgeoning artist who needs to escape before he finds success. While I was deeply ensconced in Marion and her brother's stories, the alternate perspective of Hadley Baxter, the actress playing Marion in a new film, did not hold my interest. I found myself reading through her chapters as quickly as possible to get back to Marion.  

I was so deeply immersed in these pages. For a week, I found myself awake from 1am to 4am just so I could get closer to discovering the complexities of the Graves twins and their paths. I cannot recommend this book enough. Shipstead's writing envelopes you and sustains the lifespan of her evocative characters.

**I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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<i>Great Circle</i> is my third Maggie Shipstead novel.  My first was <i>Astonish Me</i>, which I loved; <i>Seating Arrangements</i> did nothing for me; <i>Great Circle</i> landed somewhere in between.  The concept is fun: movie star Hadley is tasked with playing Marian Graves, a mid-20th century pilot in a film about her life.  The story moves back and forth between present-day Hadley and Marian.  First, this book is long.  And slow.  It's a tough combination.  The first 50 pages or so were challenging for me to follow: while each chapter is dated, time skips by rapidly and I had a hard time keeping up with who was who and what was happening.  Then, I'd get into the story--either Marian's or Hadley's--and the focus would switch back to the other.  There didn't seem to be a great balance in how much time was spent on each story.  And then, on top of that, there were detours - "incomplete histories" of historical figures, areas, or other topics that Shipstead chose to elaborate on.  While they were interesting, I was so eager to move on with the story that they frustrated me.

And yet... there's beauty in <i>Great Circle</i>  Marian is a bad-ass chick.  She makes some missteps, but she is determined to fly and makes it happen.  It's incredible to hear about her journey as a female pilot in a time when females rarely worked outside the home, let alone flew airplanes.  

Hadley is strong and stubborn in different ways.  Her character teeters on vapid, but I enjoyed her story as much, if not more, than Marian's (I wanted more time with her almost always).  

All I could think as I read is, "what a slog."  And then, I'd keep reading, and then I'd debate quitting, and then I'd keep reading.  I'm sure some readers will love it and other will not be able to make it to the end.  Since I read an uncorrected proof, I'd be curious to see if the final version is pared down and more readable.  Thank you to the author and publisher for the NetGalley.
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I didn’t finish Great Circle even though I really hoped to learn about a young female aviator.  I didn’t expect to read about bad treatment of women, incest and many sexual encounters.   I think that there should be some mention of this in the description of the book.  Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.  This is my honest opinion.
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Thank you for the wonderful chance to read and review Great Circle from Maggie Shipstead.  I have read her earlier books, which I enjoyed, but this... was superior and epic.  I admit that the publisher/editor note at the beginning of the ARC about it being a truly excellent book was intimidating but also exciting as I am not sure I have seen a note like that before.


Though at times I do not like multiple perspective, multiple timeline stories, this one works so well because it is about the blending of the stories, of showing thoughtful parallels and yet also individual stories that were complete and satisfying.  I am a fan of literary fiction and epic stories and this book just nails all of the best parts of literary fiction and epic journeys in books.

I love stories that focus on blurring, even fictional blurring, of lines between reality and arts (e.g., movies) and that focus on strong, complex, and confident women.  I also loved that the story included a sibling focus in the earlier storyline with Marian and her brother James as I find sibling relationships filled with important nuance and complexity that I connect with.  The connections that Hadley explored in her storyline, and how it brought development and growth, it felt so intense and vivid at times. 

 I saw another review that said rare is a book that makes you want to both keep reading and yet stop to take a breath and to also look up details and information to explore the book more in depth.  I have to agree, this book kept unfolding and developing and expanding in good ways and the story is worth staying with, even for those who do not like longer books or multiple timelines.  I also found that the focus on circles, closing them, expanding them, completing them and how this theme was drawn out to be rewarding, philosophical, and though provoking.

There was care and love for characters and their stories, this stood out to me and I  appreciate reading a book in which the author seems to know and want to share her characters, and their voices, with the reader. This, and excellent detail and literary prose, stood out for me and make me enthused to share this book with others when it comes out.  This is a book I will reread again soon as I want to go back with this appreciation in hand, talk about it with others, and share it in book club.
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I was really excited about this book, but unfortunately I struggled to even get through it. The author used a bunch of fancy obscure words, to the point that if I wasn't reading a digital copy that made it easy to look up words, I would have abandoned this book quickly. The two main characters weren't even remotely likeable. The book was also far too long and lacked focus, with random rabbit trails that had nothing to do with the story. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for early access to this book.
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I picked up "Great Circle" thinking it was about a woman who loved flying above all else. What I instead found was a true epic, spanning a lifetime (and then some) with blindingly vivid characters. 

Starting out, I needed a few chapters to figure out the pacing and voice. There are two perspectives/timelines: one in 3rd person, following Marian in the first half of the century; the other in first person, voiced by the actress chosen to play Marian in a movie circa 2015. The ways her story intertwines with Marian's grows more fascinating as the story progresses. There are plenty of moments I think I can see what's coming in the storyline, but then Shipstead took a left turn and surprised me in delightful, wrenching, just-right ways. 

Shipstead is an artist with her words. Her attention to detail, the connections between characters and places and time, is stunning. In other books I tend to zone out when reading descriptive paragraphs, but I was thirsty for these. I wouldn't call "Great Circle" tragic, nor would I call it a fairy tale; rather, it's beautiful in its ups and downs, and it will make you FEEL. This was one of my favorite reads of 2021, and I highly recommend it.
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Great Circle is an epic, grand adventure of the ambitious and intrepid Marian Graves and the understanding and interpretation of her life and what she was searching for by the ambivalent and irrepressible actress Hadley Baxter in current times. It's a beautiful ode to the joy of flying and the planes that took people up in the sky. It's a gentle examination of the fluidity of who we are and our relationships to other people. The earlier part of the historical storyline actually starts with Marian's father before building into her life in Montana as a young girl, Alaska as a young woman and England during World War II as a fully-formed woman. In some regards the book never seems to drive too hard at picking things apart for its characters, slowly letting realization occur for both the character and the reader. This is a story that for me, was best read slowly, letting me absorb both beautiful writing and the depths that it conveys without ever coming across as pretentious. If you're looking for a throwaway dual timeline featuring plucky women, well IT is a dual timeline, and IT definitely features plucky women, but this is meant to be contemplated and absorbed. A beautiful, thoughtful book.
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This is the story of Marian Graves, an girl who became enamored with flyingin in the early half of the twentieth century, and Hadley baxter, the actress playing Graves in a movie about her attempted flight round the world. Both women were orphaned and sent to live with an uncle. It took me a while to get into this book, but ultimately I enjoyed it. I found Marian's story more compelling than Hadley's.
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Thank you for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. To begin, I thought the writing a really good. The story was also good, but very very long! I have a hard time with longer stories because I just get anxious to be done with it, no matter how good it is. For such a long story, I wish it would have grabbed me a little fasted in the beginning. I felt it started extremely slowly. Though the story was long, I am happy it was a e-read because a hardcover or paperback would be very intimidating for me I think. Regardless, this was a good story. I will give it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4!
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