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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK • The unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost—Great Circle “soars and dips with dizzying flair … an expansive story that covers more than a century and seems to encapsulate the whole wide world” (Boston Globe).
This monumentally powerful epic weaves together the astonishing lives of a daredevil female aviator, and the Hollywood rebel who will play her on screen. Perfect for fans of THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt, and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There–after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes–Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates–and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times–collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Why do you think Marian wants to fly around the world? Have you ever wanted to take a major risk without quite knowing why?
2. What do you think Hadley wants from playing the role of Marian? Do you think her expectations are met?
3. How is Marian’s life shaped by her experiences of love? Do you think she really wants to love someone? What about Hadley?
4. What do you think is Marian’s idea of freedom? What is yours?
5. How does Marian’s relationship with her brother, Jamie, evolve over time? How would you react if you had a sibling like Marian?
6. Do you think Peregrine is going to be a good movie?
7. How do you think Marian was shaped by her unusual childhood? Do you think she was bruised or strengthened by the fact that she never knew her parents?
8. Hadley says that no story can ever be whole. What do you think she means?
9. Which friend or relative would you pass this book on to and why?
MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD is the New York Times best-selling author of the novels Great Circle, Astonish Me, and Seating Arrangements and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Los Angeles.