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Booker Longlist 2021 – Great Circle

Great Circle

Final Book – Read and reviewed by Tracy, Nicole & BookWorm

Synopsis from Booker Prize website:  In 1920s Montana, wild-hearted orphan Marian Graves spends her days roaming the rugged forests and mountains of her home. When she witnesses the roll, loop and dive of two barnstorming pilots, she promises herself that one day she too will take to the skies.

Years later, after a series of reckless romances and a spell flying to aid the British war effort, Marian embarks on a treacherous flight around the globe in search of the freedom she has always craved. She is never seen again.

More than half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a troubled Hollywood starlet beset by scandal, is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves in her biopic, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot’s life.

Maggie Shipstead’s debut novel Seating Arrangements was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and LA Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, and The Best American Short Stories. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a two-time National Magazine Award finalist for fiction. She lives in Los Angeles, California. This is her third book.

Tracy’s Thoughts:  Here it is. The book that makes me wonder what the judges were thinking.

This wasn’t a terrible book- I just didn’t like it very much. I have read other books by Shipstead, and I’ve found her writing unappealing. I can’t say why- I just don’t get on with it. And 600 pages of it- ugh.

The story should have been lighter- there are too many cheesy coincidences that should have made it a happier book. It takes far too long to get to the big flight promised from the beginning, and the characters are so serious.

Another book from the longlist that would appeal to a reading group.

Maybe the judges are starting a Booker Book Group?

Writing quality: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Characters: 2/4
Plot: 2/4
Enjoyment: 0.5/2
Total: 8.5/20

Nicole’s Thoughts: In the first quarter of this book, I thought ‘solid beach read … 3.5 stars’, nothing egregious, but absolutely NOT a Booker book.  And then it just kept going on, and on, and on and on and on …. and HOLY GOD was there a topic the author didn’t tackle?  And then I got to my favorite sentence of the book – “This was a plane meant to be in the air.”  When you’ve come to the point in your book when you write a sentence like that, you’ve gone on too long.   I’m actively angry about it.  LOL

For me the only likeable character in the book was the brother and I probably only liked him because he was somewhat peripheral.  Shipstead even managed to mess up his story, however.  The whole thing was trite silliness and self-indulgence.

Writing quality: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Character development: 1/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 7/20

BookWorm’s Thoughts: This is a story with 2 different timelines and while I really enjoyed Marian’s timeline the modern day take was kind of ugh. I can see why the author added the second timeline so that the original could be revealed by “found footage” for want of a better expression but it could have been dealt with differently IMO.

The Marian story was great I loved all the details about aircraft and flying about how to use the instruments and how to fly blind and the detailed descriptions of place made me really feel like I had left sunny (at least for today) England far behind. The historical notes about female flyers also made for interesting reading and unlike other books they actually fitted in with the narrative as part of the natural flow of the story.

Marian was a great character and I also appreciated the other characters who formed part of her life if we had just stuck with this timeline I would have been a lot happier.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 14/20

Rankings so far
Bewilderment 19.25/20
No one is Talking about This 16.83
Light Perpetual 16.25
Second Place 16
A Town Called Solace 15.83
The Fortune Men 14.83
The Sweetness of Water 14.63
The Promise 14.25
A Passage North 13.83
Klara and the Sun 13.3
An Island 13.25
China Room 13.1
Great Circle 9.83

Ouch that’s gotta hurt but what did you think?

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