There was so much buzz about this book, I had to pick it up. You could use it as a free weight, it’s so heavy–but for good reason. This is the book which makes writers despair (don’t give up, writers) because Maggie Shipstead has enviable talent. The Boston Globe rightly describes this book as “an expansive story that covers more than a century and seems to encapsulate the whole wide world.” Not an easy thing to write.
Here’s my summary:
Rescued as infants from a sinking ship in 1914, Marian and her twin brother Jamie are sent to Missoula, Montana, to live with their uncle. When two barnstorming pilots swoop through town, Marian’s obsession with flying begins. At 14 she leaves school, getting odd jobs to save money, eventually working for a wealthy and dangerous bootlegger who pays for her flying lessons. His help comes at a great cost, one she’ll pay the rest of her life, but it allows her to achieve a dream: circumnavigating the globe across the North and South poles, tracing one of the earth’s “great circles”.
Fast forward a century and we meet Hadley Baxter, an actress disillusioned with Hollywood. When scandal gets her fired from her romantic-film franchise, Hadley welcomes the opportunity to do something new. In a risky move, she agrees to play Marian Graves in a film about her disappearance in Antarctica. Hadley’s story unfolds alongside Marian’s, each of them desperate to shrug off society’s expectations and to discover their place in the world. Despite the difference in time period and geography, their stories have more in common than Hadley could’ve ever guessed.
This book has what every author wants their book to have: beautiful prose, memorable characters, and an interesting premise. I loved how Shipstead created a different voice and feel for each of the two time periods. And the book has a few more POVs than just Marian and Hadley; we get to see others’ stories, too, like Marian’s brother Jamie, deepening the entire scope of the story. A fantastic read with an epic feel.
For any friends or family with more conservative reading tastes: I would add a content warning. Message me if you’d like more specifics.
Photo credit: Firdaus Ramadhan