Showing posts with label horses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horses. Show all posts

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review
Another trip! This time my armchair travels took me to colonial Kenya, Africa via Paula McLain's historical biography Circling the Sun. Set in the 1920s, it is totally engaging, a fictional account of the real Beryl Markham's life. Beryl lived in what is now known as settler-era Africa. She was definitely a woman before her time and her story is very interesting. 

It starts in England but is mostly set in Kenya where Beryl's mother abandons her with her father. Beryl embraces the local African culture and in the long run becomes a record-setting aviator. That is, after a a life spent conquering the male-dominated equestrian world and loving a man she could never have.

Do I Recommend Circling the Sun?


I do. I highly recommend Circling the Sun if you enjoy historical fiction and are intrigued with the idea of visiting Africa. This book sheds light on the life of a woman and a country that we have not heard much about.
I thought it was an enjoyable read but New York Times' writer Alexandra Fuller found it a bit fluffy. However, in her review she agrees that "the settlers who used Kenya as their hapless playground did so at catastrophic expense to those who called Kenya home long before the whites arrived." It is an interesting peek into the history of Africa.

As Julie McDowall said when she reviewed the book for the Independent, it it is filled with "vigorous, swift, and spangled with spectacular imagery." I came away wanting to visit Africa though of course I wanted to visit that country before I read this book. I also agree with McDowall when she said the story quickens near the end and that not enough time is spent on the one thing Beryl is famed for, her flying. If you want to read this book for the aviation, prepare to be disappointed.

The Boston Globe said, "McLain will keep you from eating, sleeping, or checking your e-mail — though you might put these pages down just long enough to order airplane tickets to Nairobi."  Exactly.

Circling the Sun follows Paula McLain's hugely successful novel The Paris Wife, which I can also highly recommend. That book is set in jazz age Paris and follows the life of Ernest Hemingway and his second wife.

Are you intrigued by the idea of visiting Africa? Will you visit via McLain's book? You can find Circling the Sun on Amazon by following this link.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Horsin' Around in Historic Maryland Horse Country

As a young, horse-crazy girl growing up in the midwest, I loved horses and everything about them. I spent my days riding and many of my nights watching the stars, reclined on their bare backs while they munched their hay.   Don't tell anyone, but there were times that I sat in the barn to do my homework.  Somehow, math was slightly more palatable if I did it near the horses. 


Horses Looking Over Fence at Alfred Vanderbilt's Farm by Jerry Cooke
At one point, I had a wonderful black and white pinto pony. He was my best friend for as long as we owned him.  One day, he and I were meandering down a lonely dirt road.  A herd of deer were just off the edge of the road.  Somehow we had managed to walk right up to them, too close for their comfort, so they picked up their good-bye flag tails and waved as they slowly bounded off into the woods.  

My pony's ears perked and he stepped toward them. To this day, I can't tell  you who wanted to go more, but I gave him his head and clucked with my tongue. Off he went, following those deer through the woods.  There wasn't thick undergrowth, thank goodness, as he sped through the woods trying to join those deer.  I hung on, crouched low and clinging to his bare bare back, one hand wrapped in his thick mane. I only concentrated at not letting myself get scraped off by a tree.  At one point, he jumped a very large downed tree trunk. We moved as one being and I felt as though we were flying.  Clearly, the deer were long gone and we would never catch up. But for a moment, we were running, jumping, and flying along.  From that moment on, I had a great appreciation for the machine that is horse and how amazing it is that they can jump like they do.

From my livingroom, I would watch the Olympic equestrian events when they were televised and I would watch the triple crown races. All of those things seems so fantastical.  Clearly, horses also existed in other parts of the world, but my world consisted of my backyard ponies.  Racehorses, horses and hounds, and hooved Olympic athletes seemed like fairy tales.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that horses are more than back yard companions to little girls.  As an adult living in the mid-Atlantic, I can enjoy the deep history of horses in Maryland. 

Just a handful of the big-ticket horse attractions are:
In addition to those things, there are many opportunities to witness horse shows, expos, and events here.  A few years ago, I got to see a jumping event with Olympic riders participating. That was quite a thrill. But so far, my very favorite horse related event has been the Shawan Downs Legacy Chase.

There is a 300 acre piece of farm land near Hunt Valley, Maryland, that was purchased by the Land Preservation Trust to preserve the non-residential use of the land.  Since that purchase, it has been "Re-branded as Shawan Downs, the property has grown into a first-class equestrian center and steeplechase course." 

Man Riding Horse in a Steeplechase by Eric Horan
The Shawan Downs Legacy Chase is a steeplechase event, to benefit GBMC Healthcare. This year, it is being held on Saturday, September 27th.  I attended a few years ago and hope to return this year.  Picnicking and spending the day on the rolling, green grounds is reason enough to go.  Watching these amazing horses over fences at full speed is thrilling.  The flying hooves, churning up clods of ground, flying over the obstacles as though they have wings is something I'll never forget.  Between races there is plenty to see.  The year I attended, there were groups of spectators in period attire as well as some antique cars.  I truly felt as though I had been transported to decades prior. 

If you hope to attend horse events in Maryland, or if you are in the area on Saturday, I highly recommend that you attend this benefit event.  The Shawan Downs Legacy Chase is not something you would soon forget.  Bring a comfy blanket, your camera, and a good bottle of wine.  


Written by Dawn Rae

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