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on 4 April 2009
Beryl Markham's memoir neatly sidesteps the conventional issues of romance and marriage, although she had that, to recount the story of a young woman left very much on her own resources and who achieved considerable success. Beryl made her way into horse training and flying, not as a consciously pioneer feminist woman pushing into conventionally male domains but as a woman trying to make her own livelihood by not accepting there was any reason why she shouldn't do the things she enjoyed and was good at. Her love of Africa and her friendships and knowledge built across cultures are what gave Beryl the capability to forge a life of great variety and interest. The culmination of her achievements was her solo flight across the Atlantic from east to west, which gives the book its title. West With the Night has an appealing informality and honesty. Beryl Markham's name is one of which the world should hear more.
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on 7 August 2014
Note that this edition (ie published by Important Books, not Virago) is a facsimile of, I would guess, the original edition; the print is EXTREMELY small to the extent that it is unreadable. This is not specified in the description of the book.
I hate doing this, as I'm reviewing the edition, not the book itself - which looks very interesting. But anyone thinking of buying this book should know.
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on 10 August 2012
This biography clearly leaves out much more than it covers, but so Ms Markham clearly says in the first chapter. We are treated to some episodes from her life in Colonial East Africa in the first decades of the 20th Century. The times were such that all that "modern" was good, yet without claiming that everything native was bad. One is given a reasonable idea of how huge and partwise dangerous Africa is.
It's interesting how her Atlantic flight that gives the book its title is briefly summarised in a single chapter--clearly she was not going to brag about something that was not a major part of her life, as opposed to the African landscape and race horses, which clearly were. Another point of interest is that she apparently managed to be married thrice in the time period covered by the book and this is not mentioned by a single word, perhaps indicating that this is a biography of her work life, rather than an insight into her private life.
And yes, there is the florid language, and perhaps this is necessary to convey the vastness of the terrain.
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on 15 December 2000
This book is a fanastic journey through colonial Africa by one the first female aviators. It captures the atmosphere of native Africa, at an exciting time in history, when motor cars still turned heads, and the idea of flying was almost ubsurd. It is an insight into the ways of whiteman on the continent and how the flying machine became used as a hunting machine as man sought to conquer the mighty continent.
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on 20 June 2009
Hemingways review says it all. Briefly, it's the most under-rated historical review of life and customs, as well as flying, in Africa over a very formative period. That this woman flew very basic aircraft with virtually non-existant navigational aids, most often solo over huge stretches of totally inhospitable terrain, is mind boggling in itself.
Beryl Markham has created not so much an autobiography but both a literary and philosophical masterpiece. Each page actually deserves an individual review.
I,ve already lent my copy out, so I'm buying another one!
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on 6 September 2010
I wanted to read this book because I spent six years in Kenya as a child, which is where Beryl Markham spent most of her life. I wasn't particularly interested in her flight across the Atlantic. I found the whole book fascinating, even though the descriptions of elephant hunting were upsetting. (I get the feeling she might not have liked the idea much either, but was doing what everyone did in those days.) The book is very evocative of a time and place and a way of life and I loved the way it is written, which is very vivid with plenty of detail. I enjoyed her description of her Atlantic flight too and found myself wondering what else she did in her life afterwards as the book ends with this feat. This is a good, easy-to-read and enjoyable dip into the life of a bold and independent woman.
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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2002
...More like poetry than prose, some of her descriptive passages have to be read more than once, just to let the feelings soak into your system.
Ms Markham's early life is told in a matter-of-fact way, which takes it for granted that, when at 17, your father decides to leave Africa for Peru, you jump on your horse and head North, with no food, one change of underwear, little education, but a deep knowledge of horses and expect to land on your feet. Which is exactly what she does, co-incidentally meeting many yet-to-be-famous people on the way.
Hunter; horse-trainer; aeronaut; most people would be happy to excel in any one of these professions, but Beryl does it all with surpassing ease. Her style is self-effacing and matter-of-fact; you would imagine that being 'moderately eaten' by a lion would warrant more than a couple of paragraphs, but it only gets included here, I suspect, on the strength of Bishon Singh's wonderful rhetoric in describing the event. She also has a knack of striking up instant and longlasting relationships with people from every race, creed and social status - I don't believe she even saw those differences; be he a Murani warrior or a colonial Governor, they both get treated to the same open-minded friendship.
A book to read & read again.
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on 4 June 2015
Frustrating. A fascinating story of a strong and unique woman and her love affair with Africa and adventure. This is worth reading just for the Kenyan Derby chapter alone, gripping. BUT you learn only a little about this fascinating and complex woman, who was a notoriously hard hearted, wild, impulsive "femme fatale", living and partying in "Happy Valley" at its most salacious. She is a far, far bigger and more interesting life than this book portays. Why did she write this book when she has edited 95% of her life out of it.
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on 8 April 2016
Fascinating autobiography of the first person to cross the Atlantic from England to America in 1936, her engine failing close to the coast and landing in a bog. Before this her life in 1906 growing up and hunting barefoot with the Massai natives in the bush of Kenya, training racehorses with a trainer's licence at age 18 and becoming the first female to obtain a commcial flying licence there. Missing out are the many men in her turbulent life which include 3 marriages, Denys Finch Hatton - the long-term lover of Karen Blix (Robert Redford in Out of Africa), and the then Duke of Wales on an official visit. Witten in 1946 the book, due to the war, disappeared until 1986 when comments from Hemingway were discovered praising the book as fantastic literature and complaing that she was "a real bitch" after she'd refused to sleep with him! If one want's to find out how Kenya was in the early 1900s and leading to WW2, then this book is a must. There's also a film version of her life from 1988 called "Shadow on the Sun" (on You Tube) which I haven't seen yet.
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on 2 September 2015
Another excellent story, by the author herself, of Beryl Markham's extraordinary life in the early pioneering days in Kenya. As my husband's family had a superficial connection to that beautiful country, I was interested to learn more about how the early settlers fared and the privations they endured in what, to many of them coming from aristocratic backgrounds of great wealth, must have been almost unendurable discomfort. Read what it was really like to live in a mud hut, and yet appreciate the country for what it offered them and the natural beauty which surrounded them. Beryl's solo flight East to West across the Atlantic, was a tremendous achievement for a woman, brought up with the restrictions of that era, and her chameleon-like ability to fit into high society as well as the primitive conditions of a farm in the White Highlands of Kenya can only be admired for what strides she made for woman's suffrage.
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