SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2022
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
TIME MAGAZINE BOOK OF THE YEAR
'A gripping historical adventure that feels sharp, fresh and modern'
'So beautiful, so daring, so complete'
TAYLOR JENKINS REID
'Luminous, masterful. Glides seamlessly through the 20th century, immersing the reader'
TELEGRAPH, Best Fiction of 2021
'How deeply we care about each of these people. Extraordinary'
NEW YORK TIMES
'Wonderful. Memorable characters and vivid storytelling'
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING MAGAZINE
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.
From her days as a wild child in prohibition America to the blitz and glitz of wartime London, from the rugged shores of New Zealand to a lonely iceshelf in Antarctica, Marian Graves is driven by a need for freedom and danger.
Determined to live an independent life, she resists the pull of her childhood sweetheart, and burns her way through a suite of glamorous lovers. But it is an obsession with flight that consumes her most.
Now, as she is about to fulfil her greatest ambition, to circumnavigate the globe from pole to pole, Marian crash lands in a perilous wilderness of ice.
Over half a century later, troubled film star Hadley Baxter is drawn inexorably to play the enigmatic pilot on screen. It is a role that will lead her to an unexpected discovery, throwing fresh and spellbinding light on the story of the unknowable Marian Graves.
'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' DAILY TELEGRAPH
'Impressive and gripping' SUNDAY TIMES
'Surprising and moving at every turn' GUARDIAN
'Audacious and Immersive' DAILY MAIL
'Accomplished and ambitious' FINANCIAL TIMES
Readers love GREAT CIRCLE:
***** What a read! Immense story with beautifully created characters
***** A 600 page turner that you are sad to finish
***** The story is so well researched and planned; historical fiction standing side by side with history itself
***** This is a stunning achievement, my perspective feels fundamentally transformed through reading it
***** A wonderful saga, covering a large chunk of the twentieth century
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.