1. Circling The Sun is based on the life of a real person. Do you enjoy reading a novelist’s interpretation of the person’s life in story form or do you prefer a biographical format?
2. Did you think Beryl’s father made the right decisions for her as she was growing up?
3. Did you feel Beryl’s father sort of forced her decision to marry Jock at such a young age leaving her to think “Do I really have a choice at this point?”
4. Beryl’s love of Africa really showed through in this novel. Did Africa become a trip you would want to explore after reading Circling The Sun?
5. Beryl’s life was followed with scandal and speculation. Did you think she deserved this scrutiny into her personal life?
6. Did you know of Beryl Markham before reading Circling The Sun?
7. Did you come to like and respect all of Beryl Markham’s accomplishments in her life considering the time period in which she lived?
8. So many people influenced Beryl in her growing years – who did you think had the most influence on her?
9. What’s your interpretation of the book’s title, Circling the Sun?
10. Beryl had no close girlfriends but the key figures in her life were men. Do you think that Beryl had trouble relating to women stems from being abandoned by her mother?
11. Beryl made the difficult choice of giving up her son to her husband’s family. Why do you think she did that? Was she relieved?
12. Beryl was involved with a love triangle between her, Karen and Dennys. What did Dennys represent to both of them that they wanted him so much?
13. At what point did Beryl and Karen’s relationship change? What was the impetus?
14. The theme of freedom is weaved into the many aspects of Beryl’s life. What example best highlights freedom in her personal life?
15. What does the theme of animals (tiger for instance) in Africa reveal about Beryl’s personality?
16. Dennys’ plane is called Gipsy Moth and Beryl’s plane is called The Messenger. How did the name of the planes reflect their nature and personality?
17. How does the author’s style encourage a close connection with the reader? Do you think telling the story in Beryl’s voice was the best choice?
18. McLain uses vivid descriptions and lots of details in her writing style. Did you find that there were too many details? Did it slow the story down?
19. Were there any parts in the story that surprised you?
20. Which part of the story did you enjoy the most?
21. Are you looking forward to reading the next novel by Paula McClain and wonder who she will pick to be the subject of that novel?
If you are in a book club or book group, you can check out books on British born Kenyan aviator Beryl Markham here.
Here’s a video of Paula McLain, up close and personal on a conversation about her book Circling The Sun. Also included is a reading of the book and Q & A with the author.