Reviews, Opinion

12th December 2023

Book Review | Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Great Circle: Book Synopsis

Tying together two timelines, Great Circle features a past timeline following Marian Graves, a young aspiring pilot whose dream is to circumnavigate the globe by flying over the North and South Pole. In the present timeline, Hollywood actress Hadley Baxter is set to portray Marian in a film adaptation of her life.

Shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize and the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Great Circle dissects the societal expectations that challenge both Marian and Hadley as they explore their identities and pursuits of freedom.

Image Credit: Photo by Eleanor Murphy

Great Circle: Book Review

At a glance:

Genre: Literary, historical, fiction, feminist.

Moods: Adventurous, emotional, sad, reflective, inspiring.  

Plot or Character-driven: A mixture, leaning more toward character-driven. 

Strong character development: Yes. 

Diverse Cast of characters: Yes. 

Pace: Very slow.  

Are the flaws of characters a main focus: Yes. 

Book Length:

Upon initially picking up this book in May of 2022, I had not anticipated enjoying it as much as I did, as it was not something I would normally pick up. Standing at an impressive 600 pages, this book is a lot to get through, and if you are someone who reads on the go, it is probably worth opting for the paperback or Kindle edition. The initial half of the book felt sluggish, due to an overwhelming amount of information that seemed disconnected. I persevered with it and waited for everything to coalesce, a process that regrettably took too long. However, once this hurdle was overcome, the narrative transformed into something truly fantastic. There’s a unique sense of reward when everything falls into place while reading a book, and from that point onward, I found myself completely engrossed.

The novel’s depth reflects the thoughtful consideration put into its writing. Although the long length of the book makes it difficult to begin reading, it does enhance the plot development, and the strategically placed cross-connections contribute to its clever construction. As I progressed from the beginning to the end of the book, I felt a heightened sense of anticipation regarding how Maggie Shipstead would conclude this captivating historical narrative. The resolution had the potential to either make or break the novel. Fortunately, I found myself thoroughly satisfied with how Shipstead brought the story to a close. The ending felt authentic to my expectations of the characters’ behaviour. My only wish is for more content about Jamie! Perhaps a novella detailing his experiences during wartime would be a worthy addition to complement this already captivating story.

Writing Style:

Shipstead’s writing style can only be described as rich and immersive. Every sentence feels intentional and meaningful. The way Shipstead writes feels as though she has carefully woven her words into an art piece, which is incredibly impressive for a book as long as 600 pages. The attention to detail in the historical and geographical context of the book is also what makes Great Circle such a masterpiece. the extent of research Shipstead has put into the creation of this novel is paramount to the success of the book.

I also found a really interesting video on the Booker Prize YouTube page, where Maya Jasanoff, the chair of the Booker Prize delves into the tremendous novel. Click here to give it a watch!

To purchase Great Circle, click here.

To read more reviews similar to this one, head to the Liverpool Guild Student Media website!

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Eleanor Murphy