SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021
'A gripping historical adventure that feels sharp, fresh and modern' STYLIST
'An amazing literary feat' CURTIS SITTENFELD
'A masterpiece' NIGELLA LAWSON
A soaring, breathtakingly ambitious novel that weaves together the astonishing lives of a 1950s vanished female aviator and the modern-day Hollywood actress who plays her on screen. For fans of TAYLOR JENKINS REID, WILLIAM BOYD and ANN PATCHETT
I WAS BORN TO BE A WANDERER
From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship; to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots looping and diving over the rugged forests of her childhood, to the thrill of flying Spitfires during the war, the life of Marian Graves has always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger.
In 1950, she embarks on the great circle flight, circumnavigating the globe. It is Marian's life dream and her final journey, before she disappears without a trace.
Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a scandal-ridden Hollywood actress whose own parents perished in a plane crash is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves, a role that will lead her to probe the true mystery behind the vanished pilot.
'Extraordinary' NEW YORK TIMES
'Full of adventure, passion and tragedy' THE TIMES
'Soars from the very first page' SUNDAY EXPRESS
'Luminous, masterful. Glides seamlessly through 20th century history' TELEGRAPH
'Impressive and gripping' SUNDAY TIMES
'Surprising and moving at every turn' GUARDIAN
'Immersive' DAILY MAIL
'Accomplished and ambitious' FINANCIAL TIMES
Shipstead (Seating Arrangements) returns with a breathtaking epic of a female aviator. In 1914, infant twins Marian and Jamie Graves are sent to their dissolute uncle in Montana after their mother dies. There, a married pair of barnstormers inspires 12-year-old Marian, who feels "only lightness" as a passenger during a roll, loop, and nosedive. As a teen trucking hootch during Prohibition, Marian makes a delivery to a brothel, where she meets bootlegger Barclay Macqueen, who sponsors her interest in flying. Later Barclay traps her in a disastrous marriage, and she flees to become a bush pilot in Alaska. Her subsequent exploits are thrillingly and perceptively chronicled: during WWII, she ferries Spitfires for the RAF, and in 1949 embarks on a fateful pole-to-pole circumnavigation of the globe, which leads to a crash in Antarctica, after which she is assumed to have died. Shipstead interweaves stories of Jamie, who becomes an artist and draws battle scenes during WWII, and of her wartime lover, Ruth, with asides about historic aviators (many of them women), and convincingly conveys her characters' yearning for connection, freedom, and purpose. In a present-day narrative, film star Hadley Baxter, herself orphaned by a plane crash, is cast to portray Marian, an ambitious move for Hadley after having been known for her role in a Twilight-esque fantasy series. Shipstead manages to portray both Marian's and Hadley's expanded sense of consciousness as they push the boundaries inscribed around them Marian's through flight and Hadley's through creative inspiration (a particularly colorful scene has her zooming on psychedelic mushrooms). This is a stunning feat.