I hosted my Book Club last week. The book we discussed was Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. This historical fiction book takes place in Kenya in the 1920s.
I had great fun creating this tablescape. Here’s a look at it: No Passport Required…
I knew I didn’t want to do a table with colors you typically see for an “African/Out of Africa” table theme: oranges and browns.
The main character, Beryl Markham, spends much of her time socializing with people such as Karen Blixen (who wrote the book, Out of Africa, under the pen name of Isak Dinesan). Their crowd was primarily made up of British and Anglo-Irish expatriates who brought their luxury household items with them from Europe when they settled in Kenya. Their dinner parties often consisted of crystal and linen tablecloths. So I used their ‘upscale African’ dinner parties, and the characters as my jumping off point for the table.
Copies of African maps from the 1920s served as my table runner
Beryl Markham started her career as a professional horse trainer, and was the first woman to be granted a trainer’s license in Kenya.
Her horses often won races – the reason for the horse and trophies on the table …
African animals, binoculars, a globe (showcasing Africa), and several candles (it was Africa in the 1920s after all)…
A lantern and more African animals… I also hung a wooden bead necklace from the flowers
In the early days of aviation, Markham took up flying and became a bush pilot – she would identify game animals from the air and notify their location to safaris down below. Sadly, elephants and their ivory tusks were highly sought after back then – the binoculars and African animals symbolize the safaris…
By the age of 34 years, Markham became the first woman to successfully fly solo from England to America. The airplane on the table is a cardboard version of the Vega plane she flew.
I kept the place settings pretty simple – inexpensive burlap-like plate chargers (purchased from Hobby Lobby) layered with ivory plates, blue print napkins tied with twine, crystal water glasses, and mismatched silverware …
We usually start our lunch relaxing, and catching up with a glass of wine…
I added some cheese from England (since Beryl Markham was originally from there) to nibble on
LUNCH IS SERVED
It was a cold, winter day – so what’s better than soup and a sandwich…
Turkey and ham with cheese …
Marinara-based soup with pasta, sausage, spinach, and cannellini beans topped with parmesan cheese…
Cupcakes for dessert…
A REVIEW OF THE BOOK
I actually read Circling the Sun last fall. Just like the rest of my book club, I loved Paula McLain’s previous book, The Paris Wife. Even though I had never heard of Beryl Markham (who the book is about), I really liked McClain’s writing style, and historical fiction books in general. So when I saw McLain had written a new book , I immediately reserved a copy at my local library.
Paula McLain states in an Author’s Note, at the end of Circling the Sun, that “from the moment she read Beryl Markham’s descriptions (in Markham’s biography, West with the Wind) of her African childhood, Kenya’s seasons, and her extraordinary adventures, they took a powerful hold of her imagination”. McLain then went on to research Beryl Markham and write Circling the Sun.
After I finished reading Circling the Sun and McLain’s Author’s Note, I was inspired to also read Beryl Markham’s biography, West with the Wind. In addition, reading Circling the Sun also moved me to rent the movie, Out of Africa, which I had never seen before. I liked the book, loved the movie, but really enjoyed learning about Kenya, and the British colonial lifestyle there in the 1920s.
Book Club Review
Overall, we rated Circling the Sun above average. We just didn’t love it as much as The Paris Wife, and found it hard not to compare the two books. We did have a great discussion from the book and found Beryl Markham to be a very interesting person to read about. We also thought the book was well-written.