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Paula McLain

New York Times-bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

  • About Paula McLain

    Paula McLain’s critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling novel The Paris Wife has been a publishing phenomenon, with over 1.5 million copies in print. Painting a more complex portrait of Ernest Hemingway than many of us have come to expect, it transports us through his first wife Hadley’s eyes into the sumptuous, bohemian world of 1920s Paris and into the heart of a marriage that played a pivotal role in Hemingway’s budding literary career. The immediacy and intimacy of Hadley’s voice is irresistible; and as a woman coming into her own amid such literary legends as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and her own husband, Hadley emerges as an unforgettable heroine.

    McLain’s newest novel, Circling the Sun, tells the remarkable story of pioneering horse trainer, adventurer, and aviator Beryl Markham, from her childhood in British East Africa to her relationship with hunter Denys Finch Hatton and her rivalry with Out of Africa author Karen Blixen—a notorious love triangle that changed the course of Markham’s life. Markham was the first woman to earn her license as a professional racehorse trainer, one of the first people in Africa—and the world—to have a commercial pilot’s license, the first bush pilot to successfully scout game from the air for safari hunters under impossibly dangerous circumstances, and the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo, east to west, the “hard way.”

    McLain has spoken to a wide array of audiences across the country, offering a glimpse into her research and the compelling characters have that inspired her fiction as well as insights into the writing process. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan and has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is also the author of two collections of poetry as well as a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride.


  • Speaking Topics

    Creating Fiction from Real-Life Characters

    Writing Women's Lives

  • Video

  • Praise for Paula McLain


    The buzzword on Sanibel this weekend was “amazing”, as in “Wasn’t she an amazing speaker?” Paula was amazing, but she was more than a speaker. She was a storyteller, speaking from the heart and captivating everyone in the audience. Several people commented they could have listened for hours. We could not have asked for a more perfect afternoon and successful fundraiser.

    Sanibel Public Library Foundation

    The presentations were fabulous! I received all positive feedback – Paula is such a great storyteller. I also want to thank you for making it so easy for us to host Paula and have a wonderful literary weekend in Pueblo. It was a great weekend for our library and our community.

    Pueblo City-County Library District

    Praise for Circling the Sun

    Set in 1920s Kenya, this fictionalized history…is as luminous as its headstrong heroine. An exhilarating ride.

    Family Circle

    McLain's skill at blending fact and fiction, which dazzled readers in The Paris Wife, is on full display in Circling the Sun. Drawing on Markham's memoir West with the Night and other historical sources, McLain paints a lushly colored portrait of 1920s Kenya…In prose as luminous as the African skies, McLain charts Beryl's journey of self-discovery: searching, stumbling, getting back up and eventually soaring. Heartbreaking and defiantly hopeful--like Beryl herself--Circling the Sun is a masterful story of hardship, courage and love.

    Shelf Awareness

    McLain's eloquent evocation of Beryl's daring life reminds us that independent women have always been among us, moving at their own speed

    O Magazine

    Reimagining historical women’s lives is all the rage these days, and no one does it better than McLain. This time she takes on ‘20s aviator Beryl Markham—turbulent love life, unstoppable ambition and all.


    Paula McLain is yet another 21st century woman who can write rings around the hyper-masculine men who dominate so much of American fiction.

    Liz Smith, NY Social Diary

    The Paris Wife is good, but Circling the Sun is much better. Hadley Hemingway was sweet but dull. [Beryl] Markham was neither. She was too much for her times, but in Circling the Sun, Markham finally gets the treatment she deserves. That it also makes for bold, absorbing fiction is so much the better. No complaints here.

    New York Daily News

    Paula McLain is considered the new star of historical fiction, and for good reason. Fans of The Paris Wife will be captivated by Circling the Sun...[the] book is both beautifully written and utterly engrossing.

    Ann Patchett, Country Living

    No one does compulsively readable historical fiction about women better than McLain. She proves it again in her new novel, one of her best, transporting us to 1920s Kenya.


    Bravo to [McLain] for fictionalizing the grandly adventurous, passionate, and scandalous life of British East African Beryl Markham, the first licensed woman horse trainer and breeder on the continent and an intrepid, record-setting pilot…McLain sustains a momentum as swift and heart-pounding as one of Beryl’s prize horses at a gallop as she focuses on the romance, glamour, and drama of Beryl’s blazing life, creating a seductive work of popular historical fiction with sure-fire bio-pic potential.

    Booklist (starred review)

    Famed aviator and renowned racehorse trainer Beryl Markham is only one of the subjects of McLain’s captivating new novel. The other is Kenya, the country that formed the complicated, independent woman whom Markham would become. Drawing on Markham’s own memoir, West with the Night, McLain vividly introduces this enigmatic woman to a new generation of readers…McLain’s The Paris Wife was a book group darling. Expect nothing less for this intriguing window into the soul of a woman who refused to be tethered.

    Library Journal (starred review)

    A full-throttle dive into the psyche and romantic attachments of Beryl Markham—whose 1936 solo flight across the Atlantic in a two-seater prop plane transfixed the world…Popularly regarded as "a kind of Circe" (to quote Isak Dinesen biographer Judith Thurman), the young woman McLain explores owns her mistakes (at least privately) and is more boxed in by class, gender assumptions, and self-doubt than her reputation as aviatrix, big game hunter, and femme fatale suggests. Ernest Hemingway, who met Markham on safari two years before her Atlantic crossing…proclaimed her 1942 memoir West with the Night ‘bloody wonderful.’ Readers might even say the same of McLain's sparkling prose and sympathetic reimagining.

    Kirkus (starred review)

    Circling the Sun is the epic true-life story of an unconventional English woman, Beryl Markham, who came of age in Kenya in the early 20th century and went on to complete a record-breaking voyage across the Atlantic. Passionate, headstrong, and adventurous, Beryl tamed horses, wore trousers, and threw herself headlong into relationships, flouting rules at every opportunity. With a sharp eye for detail and style to spare, Paula McLain captures the nuances of complex relationships, the rigidity of social conventions, and the wide skies and breathtaking vistas of Africa.

    Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

    Paula McLain has such a gift for bringing characters to life. I loved discovering the singular Beryl Markham, with all her strengths and passions and complexities, a woman who persistently broke the rules, despite the personal cost. She's a rebel in her own time, and a heroine for ours.

    Jojo Moyes, New York Times bestselling author of One Plus One and Me Before You
  • Books by Paula McLain

  • Media About Paula McLain

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Paula McLain travels from Cleveland, OH

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