Maggie Shipstead with Kate Harris

A novel that feels as big as the world - that spans the world to a great degree - in the journeys that unfold in Maggie Shipstead’s captivating new novel, Great Circle (Knopf). A novel with Northwest roots - when it is on the ground - this story of a young woman who grows up to become a world-renowned aviator, is then shadowed by a decades-later story of a woman who is cast as the aviator in a film, who finds herself in unexpected ways taken with the woman she is portraying.

“Shipstead returns with a breathtaking epic of a female aviator. In 1914, infant twins Marian and Jamie Graves are sent to their dissolute uncle in Montana after their mother dies. There, a married pair of barnstormers inspires 12-year-old Marian, who feels “only lightness” as a passenger during a roll, loop, and nosedive. As a teen trucking hootch during Prohibition, Marian makes a delivery to a brothel, where she meets bootlegger Barclay Macqueen, who sponsors her interest in flying. Later Barclay traps her in a disastrous marriage, and she flees to become a bush pilot in Alaska. Her subsequent exploits are thrillingly and perceptively chronicled: during WWII, she ferries Spitfires for the RAF, and in 1949 embarks on a fateful pole-to-pole circumnavigation of the globe, which leads to a crash in Antarctica, after which she is assumed to have died. Shipstead interweaves stories of Jamie, who becomes an artist and draws battle scenes during WWII, and of her wartime lover, Ruth, with asides about historic aviators (many of them women), and convincingly conveys her characters’ yearning for connection, freedom, and purpose. In a present-day narrative, film star Hadley Baxter, herself orphaned by a plane crash, is cast to portray Marian, an ambitious move for Hadley after having been known for her role in a Twilight-esque fantasy series. Shipstead manages to portray both Marian’s and Hadley’s expanded sense of consciousness as they push the boundaries inscribed around them—Marian’s through flight and Hadley’s through creative inspiration. This is a stunning feat.” - Publishers Weekly.

And that is a review, well said. Maggie Shipstead’s previous novels are the best-selling, award-winning Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements. Maggie Shipstead appears in conversation with Kate Harris, author of Land of Lost Borders.


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Great Circle: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525656975
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - May 4th, 2021

Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062846662
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
(This book cannot be returned.)
Published: Dey Street Books - June 11th, 2019

Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 6:00pm
Virtually Hosted by Elliott Bay Book Company
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