Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

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Member Reviews

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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This title was more literary than expected. I wanted more focus on Marian's desire to take to the skies during the dawn of aviation in the United States. I did enjoy those passage's in Shipstead's book the most. Beyond that the story really focuses on what abuse, emotional and physical, women go through to achieve their dreams which in the end, led to a somewhat depressing novel.
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4.5 stars

Wow, what a story!  

Before I go into how much I enjoyed this book, let me start things off by honestly admitting that, actually, I “almost” didn’t end up reading this one, for various reasons. 

First and foremost, I was intimidated by the page length — when I initially accepted an ARC of this book from the publisher in NetGalley, I had no idea that this would be a 600–page tome.  With a TBR a mile high and so many books already lined up to read for the month of July, I definitely felt like I didn’t have the time to spend on a long book (this is exacerbated by the fact that I’m a “one-book-at-a-time” kind of reader who also has problems DNFing books once I start them, no matter how bad the book gets).  Second, I was torn by the book’s premise. While I love reading about strong women protagonists, and epic historical stories are usually right up my alley, the part that made me wary was the overarching subject matter.  Going into this, I knew that it would be about a female pilot circumnavigating the globe and undoubtedly, there would be a lot of technical language and details involving the mechanics of flying a plane and getting from one point to another (on the first 2 pages, before the story even starts, there is a detailed map charting the main character Marian Graves’ journey - which, being someone who has no sense of direction and is incapable of reading maps, I was completely lost even after staring at the map for several minutes) — given my lack of interest in aviation and airplanes / flying, as well as my general aversion to books that go a bit too much into the “science-y” side of things because much of it usually goes over my head and therefore impacts my ability to enjoy the story, this of course added to my anxiety about reading this book.  Third, I had never read this author before and as such, didn’t have the benefit of a positive or negative reaction to previous works to sway me either way.  In the end though, I decided to go for it — start the book and hope for the best. And now, after finishing this epic story, I can say for sure that it was absolutely worth the time and effort!

This book actually turned out to be completely different from what I expected (in a good way, of course).  Surprisingly, none of the fears that I initially had about the book ended up materializing.  Yes, there was a lot of technical detail about aviation and airplanes and flying, but it was done in a way that was accessible and didn’t detract from the story itself.  Most importantly though, the story wasn’t just about that — in fact, it’s actually one of those stories that truly has something for everyone in terms of the themes and topics that it explores (i.e.: history, adventure, romance, relationships, complex family dynamics, war and sacrifice, love, heartbreak, contemporary societal and gender conflicts, etc.).  So far, this is the only book I’ve read that can truly be classified as having a multitude of settings that span the depths of time and space — from modern day Los Angeles in 2014 to a doomed cruise ship in the North Atlantic in 1914, to Prohibition-era Montana, to London and Europe where female pilots helped ferry warplanes for the ATA during WWII, to the wilds of Alaska, to Vancouver (Canada) to Seattle and New York, to the icy depths of Antarctica, to the unknown expanse of the skies above and beyond the clouds — from land to air to sea, this is a story that traverses the globe in a “great circle” worthy of its title.  

This magnificent, epic tale is beautifully written in prose that is lyrical, poetic, lively, descriptive, and as mentioned previously, also incredibly accessible, given its content.  Normally, a big book such as this one would take me more than a week to finish, but I found myself so absorbed and invested in the story and its characters that I felt compelled to keep turning the pages, which resulted in me being able to finish this massive tome over the course of a 3-day holiday weekend. Maggie Shipstead is indeed a gifted writer — I admire so much of what she tried to do with this story, from the impeccable research to the near flawless execution of the story, to the well-developed, realistic rendering of the characters (especially remarkable given the fact that many of the characters in the story were actually unlikable) — all of it came together in fantastic, epic fashion.

With all that said, the one complaint that I did have — and the main reason for why I gave this book 4.5 stars rather than 5 stars — is that I didn’t really like the present day story arc involving Hadley Baxter.  While I understand the critical role that Hadley played in terms of helping Marian’s story unfold as well as the parallels we are supposed to infer with their personalities and the paths their lives ultimately take, etc., I honestly could not bring myself to like Hadley.  She came across as annoying to me and I actually had no interest at all in her background or her “struggles” in Hollywood where she is seemingly “misunderstood” by everyone. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I just couldn’t stand her — thankfully, the chapters about her were extremely short, so I was able to skim majority of the pages about her until I got to the passages actually related to Marian’s life.

With such an epic story, it’s pretty much impossible to relay its scope and magnificence through a brief review.  This is a story that is guaranteed to be an immersive experience — a rewarding journey that is absolutely worth the time it takes to get to the end.  I am definitely glad I got the chance to read this one and of course there is no doubt that I will be exploring Shipstead’s backlist now while looking forward to what she might have in store for us next!

Received ARC from Alfred A. Knopf publishers via NetGalley.
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Maggie Shipstead's new novel, Great Circle, is an intriguing book.  Set in two time periods with two characters who have difficult upbringings, she works to tie the two stories together.  This is a complex book with complex personalities.  My favorite thing about this book is that I could not say I had "figured out" the two main characters even at the end.  They both had grown but I was left with the sense that they both were still searching for how to be true to themselves.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, some of the World War II elements will be familiar to you and ring true.  I did enjoy the incomplete historical summaries interspersed throughout the book that helped explain the historical settings.  Great Circle left this reader contemplating the positioning of women in society and how we still have a ways to go toward equality.
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Thank you to Knopf Publishing, Maggie Shipstead and Netgalley for my advanced reader’s copy of “Great Circle” in exchange for an honest review. 

To start off, I am an avid historical fiction reader and a fan of long books. You would think I would be enamored with this 600+ paged novel spanning decades across our history. Trouble is it didn’t need to be that long. The book starts off stellar with a tumultuous beginning to baby twins Marian and Jamie Graves. I loved their wild and carefree upbringing as well as their forged friendship with Caleb (hints at triangle and circle references throughout). I was interested in Marian’s obsession with flying and her single-sighted goal to get there. Personally I was more drawn to Jamie’s storyline with his strong moral compass and artistic instincts as well as his beautiful connection with an unattainable girl. 

Where I believe it went off kilter was with all the minutia about flying. Instruments, weather, technique, equipment and such were too detailed for my liking and seemed to bog the book down in details. If aviation is your thing, you will absolutely love it. For me, it was too much. 

I also started with loving the modern storyline with actress Hadley Baxter playing the role of Marian Graves in a new Hollywood film. Where I think it lost track was in self-indulgence (drug-induced hallucinations that went off in crazy detail, affair after affair that didn’t seem to make character growth/decline any headway towards a better storyline). 

For me this book could have been cut down 200 pages and kept the flow going at a fantastic pace. As it is, it does drag in sections which makes my 3.5 drop to 3 stars. I applaud the topics approached (strong female leads, adventure, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, femininity, sexuality, homosexuality, gender roles, alcohol abuse, death, war, love, family and so much more.). There was such a plethora of topics that I cannot even classify it as an epic tale because it seemed to run over the edges of that. 

All in all, I’m glad I read parts as they kept me raptured but was extremely ready for it to be done by the end. If you like audiobooks, both narrators do a good job but be warned it is over 25 hours.
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An epic novel! Loved it.

Discussed on Episode 130 of the Book Cougar’s podcast.

https://www.bookcougars.com/blog-1/2021/episode130
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This book kept me engrossed, for all 608 pages! The story is an interweaving of time and place, but like the earth itself, it all is a great circle. The plot  centers around Marion, and the early days of aviation. Her desire to know the limits and test them is the underlying theme and the author makes this the central point for all the characters. Wonderfully constructed, highly recommended.
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This was incredibly engrossing.  A tale of the romanticized myth versus reality, more or less.  In the past, Marion Graves wants to be a pilot.  In 2014, Hadley Baxter is set to star in a movie, supposedly based on Marion's life.  Hadley is trying to salvage her career after she self-sabotages out of frustration with being conflated with the main character in a hit romance movie series.  Marion's story is told concurrently with Hadley's--and Marion's story reflects very little of what is being filmed.

It's a huge novel--over six-hundred pages--but it is so well written and so enveloping, you don't even notice.  It's marvelous.
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This was a good, interesting story. I can see why it is getting great reviews. I love stories where parts link together. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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I am so grateful to have been approved to read this book. It blew up everywhere. I’ve seen it all over Bookstagram and other social media sites as well as best seller lists at well known book shops. What an epic story. Love reading about iconic women doing big things all over the world.  Well written and I appreciate the historical facts. Would recommend to family and friends. I can see this becoming a classic read.
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This is an amazing book!  I have recommended to my book club and several other bookish friends.  It was also a read with Jenna book club pick.  I would highly recommend it!
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I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters were engaging, and I enjoyed the unexpected ways in which it turned out they had touched one another's lives. Yes, it was long, but it kept my attention throughout. I'll definitely recommend it.
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Holy guacamole, this book was entirely too long. 

I really, really, really wanted to love it.  I do love the bones of this story a lot!  This was such a slog for me to get through.  I was not engaged and just finished it to finish it.  

IMO the entire modern day aspect could have been left off and it wouldn't have harmed the story at all and may have improved it a bit.  

A bit more editing and I think it would have been a 4/5 star book but for me it was a 2 because of how annoyed I was by the end.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for an eARC copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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Long but I get why! It was a commitment but I came away feeling like I learned a lot a d I really enjoyed the character building that a novel this length often contains!
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Wow! I couldn't wait to get back to this book. Such an interesting story and well-written characters. I liked the Hollywood frame because it helped remind the reader how hard it is to know the truth about historical people and events. Loved the epic journey of this novel and it never got slow or dragged on. Felt like the characters were truly growing and changing against the landscape of the 20th century.
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Thank goodness for ebooks! If you had to pack this tome for your next airplane ride, you’d have no room left in your luggage.  But make room for this blockbuster of a novel somehow, because it is a delightful, century spanning epic.

Set in modern day Los Angeles and early 20th century America, this dual timeline novel tells the story of an aviation pioneer and the woman who is going to depict her character in a movie.  The stories intertwine and interact in unexpected ways as the aviator’s life builds up to its culmination in a death-defying Great Circle—flying longitudinally around the earth over both polar regions.


Maggie Shipstead’s research was clearly extensive, but is never heavy handed.  Aviation history, the role of women pilots in World War II, the mechanics of bootlegging pilots flying ‘over the line’ to Canada, all are intrinsic to the story.  Hadley and Marian are both immensely sympathetic characters and despite the length of the novel, I was not ready for their stories to end.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Could not finish. Too long. Didn’t like any of the characters. Didn’t care about their stories. Flipping back and forth between time lines didn’t help. Marian’s story was the more interesting of the two. Still didn’t care enough to finish.
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Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! No spoilers. Beyond amazing I enjoyed this book so very much. The characters and storyline were fantastic. The ending I did not see coming  Could not put down nor did I want to. Truly Amazing and appreciated the whole story. This is going to be a must read for many many readers. Maybe even a book club pick.
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Thanks for the ARC of this book. I could not finish. Historical fiction is a genre I have mixed feelings about, and though I tried, I couldn't get into the story.
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Some might find this a bit long, but I loved it. Don’t want to give spoilers; the characters have stayed with me. The cultural and economic shifts of the past century are beautifully captured. Maggie Shipstead did an amazing job!
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