Book Club Questions For Circling The Sun:
Circling The Sun by Paula McLain is a captivating historical fiction novel that takes readers on a journey through the life of Beryl Markham, an extraordinary woman who defied societal norms and became a pioneer in the world of horse racing and aviation. As with any thought-provoking book, there are numerous topics and themes that can be explored within a book club setting. Here are some book club questions for Circling The Sun to enhance your discussion:
1. Beryl Markham is a strong and independent woman who challenges the expectations placed upon her by society. How does she navigate these expectations throughout the novel? How does her determination and resilience shape her character?
2. The novel explores themes of love, passion, and betrayal. Discuss the various relationships Beryl finds herself in throughout the book, such as her complicated relationship with Denys Finch Hatton and her friendship with Karen Blixen. How do these relationships influence Beryl’s choices and personal growth?
3. Beryl Markham’s childhood in Africa greatly impacts her adult life. How does her upbringing shape her identity and her connection to the land? How does her sense of belonging influence her decisions and actions?
4. The novel also delves into the challenges faced by women in a male-dominated society. How does Beryl defy gender norms and expectations in her pursuit of her passions? How do other female characters in the book navigate their own challenges?
5. Paula McLain beautifully describes the landscapes and natural beauty of Africa throughout the novel. How does the setting contribute to the overall atmosphere and tone of the story? Discuss the significance of the African wilderness as both a physical and metaphorical backdrop.
6. Beryl Markham’s career in horse racing and aviation is groundbreaking for a woman of her time. How does she navigate the male-dominated industries? What sacrifices does she make for her career, and what does she gain from her accomplishments?
7. The novel explores themes of identity and self-discovery. How does Beryl’s journey of self-discovery unfold throughout the book? How does her understanding of herself change as she faces various challenges and experiences?
8. Beryl Markham is known for her strong connection with animals, particularly horses. Discuss the symbolism of horses throughout the novel. How do they represent freedom, power, and Beryl’s own spirit?
9. The narrative switches between different periods of Beryl’s life. How does this non-linear storytelling enhance the reader’s understanding of her character and her journey? How does this narrative technique contribute to the overall structure of the novel?
10. The novel also explores the complexities of colonialism and the clash of cultures in Africa. Discuss the portrayal of colonial life, the interactions between African tribes and European settlers, and the impact of imperialism on the characters’ lives.
Unique Facts about Circling The Sun:
1. Beryl Markham, the main character in Circling The Sun, was a real-life figure and an accomplished aviator. She became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.
2. Paula McLain conducted extensive research to accurately portray Beryl Markham’s life and experiences, making the novel a blend of historical fiction and biographical elements.
3. Beryl Markham’s memoir, “West with the Night,” which she published in 1942, was rediscovered and republished in 1983. It gained significant acclaim and brought her story back into the spotlight.
4. Circling The Sun provides a glimpse into the lives of other notable figures of the time, such as Karen Blixen (author of “Out of Africa”) and Denys Finch Hatton (Blixen’s lover), adding depth and historical context to the story.
5. The novel beautifully captures the spirit of Africa, showcasing its stunning landscapes, diverse cultures, and the allure that drew many adventurers and explorers to the continent during that era.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1. Is Circling The Sun a true story?
No, Circling The Sun is a work of historical fiction. However, the main character, Beryl Markham, was a real person, and many events in the book are based on her life.
2. Is it necessary to read Beryl Markham’s memoir, “West with the Night,” before reading Circling The Sun?
No, it is not necessary to read “West with the Night” before reading Circling The Sun. The novel stands on its own and provides a fictionalized account of Beryl Markham’s life.
3. What are some other books similar to Circling The Sun?
If you enjoyed Circling The Sun, you might also enjoy “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, which tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, or “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen, which provides another perspective on the colonial era in Africa.
4. How accurate is the portrayal of Beryl Markham in Circling The Sun?
While the novel is a work of fiction, Paula McLain conducted extensive research to accurately capture the essence of Beryl Markham’s character and experiences.
5. What themes does Circling The Sun explore?
Circling The Sun explores themes such as female empowerment, identity, love, colonialism, and the pursuit of one’s passions.
6. Is Circling The Sun suitable for younger readers?
Circling The Sun contains adult themes and some explicit content, so it may not be suitable for younger readers. It is recommended for mature readers.
7. How does the African setting contribute to the story?
The African setting in Circling The Sun adds depth and richness to the story, reflecting the untamed beauty of the land and the challenges faced by the characters.
8. What is the significance of the title, Circling The Sun?
The title suggests the cyclical nature of life and the constant pursuit of one’s dreams and passions, just like the sun’s never-ending journey across the sky.
9. How does the author balance historical accuracy with fictional storytelling?
Paula McLain weaves historical facts with fictional elements, creating a compelling narrative that captures the essence of Beryl Markham’s life while allowing room for creative storytelling.
10. What is Beryl Markham’s most significant achievement?
Beryl Markham’s most significant achievement was becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, a feat she accomplished in 1936.
11. Does Circling The Sun address the challenges faced by women in the 20th century?
Yes, Circling The Sun explores the challenges women faced in a male-dominated society and highlights Beryl Markham’s determination to defy societal expectations and pursue her passions.
12. Are there any film adaptations of Circling The Sun?
As of now, there are no film adaptations of Circling The Sun.
13. How does Circling The Sun inspire readers?
Circling The Sun inspires readers through the remarkable story of Beryl Markham, encouraging them to embrace their passions, challenge societal norms, and forge their own paths in life.