Great Circle (novel)

Great Circle is a 2021 novel by Maggie Shipstead, published on May 4, 2021, by Alfred A. Knopf.[1]

Great Circle
Great Circle (Maggie Shipstead).png
First edition cover
AuthorMaggie Shipstead
CountryUnited States
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
May 4, 2021
Media typePrint (hardcover), e-book, audio
ISBN978-0-525-65697-5 (First edition hardcover)
LC ClassPS3619.H586 G74 2021

The novel has been shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.


The novel consists of two parallel narratives about two fictional women. One is about the disappeared 20th-century aviator Marian Graves, while the other is about the struggling 21st-century Hollywood actress Hadley Baxter, who is attempting to make a film about Marian.[2] Hadley's narrative is told in the first-person, while Marian's sections are told in the third-person.[3]


Great Circle received very favorable reviews, with a cumulative "Rave" rating at the review aggregator website Book Marks, based on 22 book reviews from mainstream literary critics.[4] The novel debuted at number fourteen on The New York Times Hardcover fiction best-seller list for the week ending May 8, 2021.[5] Critics praised the novel for sustaining its length[6][7] and for Shipstead's research[8][9] and intricate novel structure for perfectly interweaving the parallel narratives, despite the time and circumstances separating them.[2][9]

In its starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, "Shipstead manages to portray both Marian's and Hadley’s expanded sense of consciousness as they push the boundaries inscribed around them [...] This is a stunning feat."[10] Kirkus Reviews, in its starred review, wrote that "Shipstead reveals breathtaking range and skill, expertly juggling a multigenerational historical epic and a scandal-soaked Hollywood satire." Kirkus also commented that "her research is as invisible as it should be, allowing a fully immersive experience."[9] Stephanie Merritt, for The Observer, wrote, "This is a novel that invites the reader to immerse themselves in the sweep of history, the rich and detailed research, and part of the pleasure is being carried along by the narrative through all its digressions and backstories."[8] Library Journal wrote that the novel "justifies its length, by its intricately designed plot and by giving its compelling cast of characters room to breathe."[7] Ron Charles of The Washington Post called it a "culturally rich story that takes full advantage of its extended length to explore the changing landscape of the 20th century." However, Charles lamented that the "extraordinary realism of Marian's chapters can make the broad strokes of Hadley’s sections feel light in comparison."[6]

The novel has been shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.[11]


  1. ^ "Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead: 9780525656975". Penguin Random House. Archived from the original on January 2, 2021. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Wagner, Erica (May 26, 2021). "Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead review – parallel lives take flight". The Guardian. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  3. ^ Steger Strong, Lynn (May 2, 2021). "An Ambitious Novel Takes Flight". The New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  4. ^ "Book Marks reviews of Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead". Book Marks. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  5. ^ "Hardcover Fiction Books - Best Sellers - Books - May 23, 2021". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b Charles, Ron (May 3, 2021). "Maggie Shipstead's 'Great Circle' is a soaring work of historical fiction and a perfect summer novel". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  7. ^ a b DeZelar-Tiedman, Christine (May 1, 2021). "Great Circle". Library Journal. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Merritt, Stephanie (June 14, 2021). "Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead review – a soaring achievement". The Observer. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c "Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead". Kirkus Reviews. December 26, 2020. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  10. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead". Publishers Weekly. February 26, 2021. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  11. ^ Flood, Alison (September 14, 2021). "Nadifa Mohamed is sole British writer to make Booker prize shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved September 14, 2021.