Book Of The Week, 6th September 2021

Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle. Transworld Publishers Ltd., 2021. HB, 2021.

The stories of an early aviator and a 21st-century Hollywood star are deftly woven into an intricate, satisfying narrative.

The fictional Marian Graves, created by author Maggie Shipstead, is one heroine of this novel.
Graves disappeared in 1950 while attempting to fly around the world. She and her navigator, Eddie Bloom, vanished somewhere over the Ross ice shelf, close to finish their journey.

Yet Great Circle is more than a historical novel, and the book has more than one heroine. Running in parallel to Marian’s story is a 21st-century narrative: that of Hadley Baxter, a Hollywood ingenue who is attempting to rescue her reputation by making a film about Marian. Hadley, a former child star, was dating her co-star, Oliver, of her hit show, but when she cheats on him in public she’s unceremoniously booted off the franchise. It is Marian’s story that will allow Hadley to find her own way.

The plot of Great Circle is complex and rich, beautifully built as it is elegantly written. The protagonists are strong, memorable characters whose fates intersect in ways both inevitable and shocking. This is a novel that expands the reader’s horizons, and is moving and surprising at every turn.