How many times have you been told you couldn’t do something because of who you are?
Marian Graves is a woman with a dream. But it’s the early 20th century, a time in which women with ambitions had no choice but to fight to transform their hopes into realities.
When she first expresses interest in learning to fly planes, Marian meets a level of resistance that would convince even the strongest-willed to give up and settle for more “appropriate” work.
Marian Graves did not give up.
In fact, she persevered so intensely that decades later, the book’s second main character accepts the job of playing her in a biopic about her disappearance.
Hadley Baxter has no particular interest in learning what really happened to Marian Graves … until she tries to become her (for research. Obviously.) Only then does she discover the truths never before revealed about the famed aviator’s life.
Since reading Great Circle I’ve picked up several more of Shipstead’s books. If you like this one, I think there’s something to love about the rest. She’s one of those writers that paints stories not just with the color of words but also with emotions, human experiences, and very real variations of desire.
We have all wanted things, to have things or to not have them, to be something we aren’t or do something the world says we can’t.
That is one of many things that makes this particular novel great.
In many books with duel points of view, there is very rarely a satisfactory balance between the two. I almost always find myself favoring one or the other, because the constantly shifting perspectives don’t always offer deeper insight into what’s happening.
Great Circle almost perfectly wove and aligned Marian’s and Hadley’s stories together to both strengthen the narrative and influence the reader’s understanding of both characters. The more you learn about Hadley, the more you learn about Marian. And the more you learn about Marian, the more you understand the significance of Hadley’s struggles.
This parallel between both women’s search for purpose and battle with their identities is only a small part of what makes this story so relatable. It speaks volumes to the timelessness of the all-too-common obstacle of being underestimated because you’re grossly underrepresented. Or misrepresented. Or both. Almost always both.
This isn’t to say this is a book just for women or that it can’t be enjoyed or appreciated by everyone. I simply speak from the perspective of a woman who has been told plenty of times over she can’t do this or that because … hormones? Who knows.
Not that I ever plan on learning to fly a plane. Though wouldn’t that be something?
I suppose the point of it all is that we can be whatever we want, within the realistic parameters of our surroundings. We can go where our hearts call us to go, whether that be somewhere on the ground or among the clouds.
In some cases, perhaps, it’s also OK to disappear, if only to regain the hold on your life you’ve felt you’ve lost. For a time; temporarily. Or forever, if you so choose.
You have the power to choose. As we all truly should.
Meg is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.