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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

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).

“A masterpiece.... One of the best books I’ve ever read.” (J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Friends and Strangers) 

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 14, 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.

©2020 Maggie Shipstead (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Great Circle is a masterpiece...one of the best books I’ve ever read." (J. Courtney Sullivan) 

"A sumptuous epic...exhilarating...this book delivers a series of ahas, of sweet, provocative points of contemplation that make the reader feel alive." (Leigh Haber, Oprah Daily)

"A soaring work of historical fiction.... So convincingly does Shipstead stitch her fictional heroine into the daring flight paths of early aviators that you’ll be convinced that you remember the tragic day her plane disappeared. Great Circle is a relentlessly exciting story about a woman maneuvering her way between tradition and prejudice to get what she wants. It’s also a culturally rich story that takes full advantage of its extended length to explore the changing landscape of the 20th century. My top recommendation for this summer." (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)

What listeners say about Great Circle

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  • Overall
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Great Writing, Story and Characters

I adored this unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator. The characters and the writing were amazing. Marian Graves was the fictional female pilot who disappeared in 1950 while attempting an unprecedented north-south circumnavigation of the earth. On the final leg, she vanished in the South Pacific, Earhart-style.
Sixty years later, Hollywood casts a troubled starlet, Hadley Baxter, in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance.
My criticism of the book is the Hadley/Hollywood story. The book was fantastic without it, and I felt it detracted from the story’s greatness. Fortunately, that part was minimal in the 25 hour audiobook. Cassandra Campbell’s excellent narration made up for the Hadley portion. I will definitely listen to this again!

11 people found this helpful

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So glad I was drawn to this book.

It’s odd to say that I’m grateful I read this book, but I am. I found it a little confusing in the beginning, but I hung in there’s and am glad I did. The book doesn’t leave you wanting more or wondering what then (I hate that) but brings the story full circle. It lifted me up, opened my eyes and quickened my thoughts. It’s a great read.

10 people found this helpful

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Absolutely beautiful writing

I have just looked at the other reviews and no one has mentioned how beautiful Shipstead's writing is. Wonderful metaphors!
I enjoyed the story, too, but what really makes me love this book is how beautifully it is written. I also liked the narration. A woman is not going to sound like a man, so get over it. Too many voices would confuse the story. The narrator has a soothing low key voice and when she is doing the dialogue, it was spot on.

The historical perspective on the women pilots is pretty accurate. They did an important service for the war effort and were left without the benefits the men received. Only recently have they been recognized for their contributions.

Wonderful story. Recommend highly.

8 people found this helpful

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A most unbelievable believable novel.

The story hooked me and kept me on the line until the final pages. What a twist... the heroine is not a sinker.

7 people found this helpful

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Amazing Book

I enjoyed the story, the interesting characters and the unique mix of drama, aviation and sex.

5 people found this helpful

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A wonderful story

This is a terrific book that I recommend highly. The story of the women who ferried aircraft in Europe during World War Ii, interwoven with other themes of a changing society and adventure, make this a first-year listen.

5 people found this helpful

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Well researched and interesting human drama

The story held my interest and was well crafted. Many life situations were painful. Narration was very good. Mature subject matter.

4 people found this helpful

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Intriguing characters/great performance

Loved the characters and the voice of Hadley.
One correction, though, the name Kalani is pronounced incorrectly. It is “kulahnee” not “kaylahnee.”
Otherwise, amazing.

4 people found this helpful

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Slow start but I stuck it out

It was a REALLY slow, discombobulated start, maybe the first quarter or so of the book, but I’m glad I stuck it out. After pushing through, I enjoyed the story. Engaging and interesting. The narrator’s various voices weren’t great, especially the male characters but it was okay.

4 people found this helpful

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A Strong Brave Adventuresome Woman

Amazing chapters brought to life in this nook. Enjoyed it. The tale wound in and around and went places I did not know much about. The various settings were made real.

3 people found this helpful