Beryl Markham •
West with the Night •
East Africa is legendary for stirring the souls of writers. It inspired such diverse works as Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”; The Flame Trees of Thika, Elspeth Huxley’s recollections of her Kenyan childhood; and Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, with its mystical overtones.
Beryl Markham, a contemporary of all three authors, brings this fabled land to life in one of the most eloquent memoirs of all time. She also belongs to that intrepid band of aviation pioneers, and the combination of adventure, locale, and voice will hold you enthralled.
The early years of flight required of pilots a courage almost unimaginable today. The book opens with Markham’s search for a fellow airman downed in the bush. After days of scouring the vast plains from the cockpit of her two-seater, she at last spies a plane, then a pair of legs, and begins tugging at the figure’s belt. “I resent being treated like a corpse,” her comrade croaks when the rest of him emerges. “It’s insulting.” On learning that his rescuer intends to write a book, he groans, “God forbid.”
Markham certainly has no shortage of material. She survives a lion attack while still a child. Her aviation instructor dies with a propeller embedded in his chest. She flies the Atlantic solo from east to west, the first woman to do so. And then there are the horses: Having grown up around the turf, Markham knows racing from a tender age.
Hemingway commented, “I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [Markham] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.”
Don’t take his word for it—read this for yourself.