Archive | June, 2015

Oh, Kenya.

26 Jun

I picked up an advance of Paula McLain’s new novel, Circling the Sun, knowing that it centers fully on the life of Beryl Markham. I knew that Beryl was an aviatrix, that she had short hair, and that she had written the popular memoir West with the Night. If  I’d have had to guess, I would have guess that she was from London. Or that she went to grade school with Amelia Earhart stateside. And that was the extent of my knowledge. As it turned out, I had been operating under false assumptions. Beryl Markham was MUCH cooler than I could have imagined!

circling the sunAlthough I was correct in assuming she was British – she didn’t grow up in London, but rather deep in the heart of Kenya. The setting alone made this an incredibly entertaining and worthwhile read. She was tough, she was opinionated, she was also naive and brash and a little bit wild. The novel only touches upon her life in the sky, instead focusing on her life before she discovered airplanes. Her father was a horse trainer, a breeder and an owner and Beryl followed closely in his footsteps (unheard of for a woman at the time). She fell into a fast moving crowd and struggled to keep up, making multiple missteps as she tried. Scandal seemed to follow her around in the most delicious ways (for a reader, at least). I loved getting to know her through this fast moving, entertaining novel. Every other famous Brit living in Kenya during this time (the 1920s and onward) makes a cameo in this book, or is a central character: Idina Sackville, subject of The Bolter, Karen Blixon and Denys (author and love interest in Out of Africa) – all the ones that you could name are here. 5 stars.

If you, like me, are fascinated by this sort of wild and uninhibited period of time in Africa, here are some other books that fit the bill (that are also great!):

HOLD YOUR BREATH.

24 Jun

Guys, this one was pretty good! It’s definitely the fastest I’ve finished a book lately, I kept finding time to sneak in a few pages while my baby’s head was turned. It reminded me of a couple of things, The Night Circus, for sure/obviously, and a little bit of The Thirteenth Tale. Other people have said Geek Love, but I thought Geek Love was tragically dark and not so commercial as this one. I’d swing it a teeny bit closer to the movie Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock (If Nicole and Sandra were circus performers instead of witches).

specExcellent cover, right? So the premise is that a young man, a librarian named Simon, lives in his childhood home on the East Coast. And by coast, I don’t mean somewhere in the middle of Rhode Island. It is literally ON THE COAST. In fact, it is dangerously close to falling off the cliff upon which it’s perched, crashing into the sea below. Pretty quickly, we learn that his mother drowned in the sea and that the mother, Simon’s sister and Simon himself all have the ability to hold their breaths for a freakishly long time underwater. Simon’s sister Enola travels with a circus act and reads Tarot cards for a living, as his mother did before settling down on the house on the cliff. In the first chapters, Simon receives a mysterious package in the mail containing an old, old book filled with dates and names and cities – a circus’s old log book. Quickly noticing that some of the names were familiar, he discovers that some of the “mermaids” in the log are related to him, and that a shocking number of them died by drowning, all on the same day of different years, July 24. The same day of his mother’s death. As the date gets closer and closer, he frantically tries to solve the mystery/break the curse/connect all the dots in order to, so he thinks, save his sister. 4 stars.