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West with the Night by Beryl Markham

West with the Night (1942)

by Beryl Markham

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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Interesting bio about life in Africa in the early 20th century ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
did not finish ( )
  lindawwilson | Jan 25, 2016 |
Finished this new all-time favourite last night. Each page, each paragraph, and (not to overdo it), each sentence is a real pleasure to read. I have no idea whether Markham herself wrote it, or whether her husband did (somehow I'm leaning toward the second conjecture; it just doesn't seem to have been written by a woman somehow, though I couldn't say what leads me to that impression), but ultimately it hardly matters. It's a book one must simply read for the love of reading. You won't learn much by the way of Markham's personal life; she certainly doesn't delve at all into her love life, marriage and affairs (you'll have to read Paula McLean's Circling the Sun to get the romance angle, though I wasn't able to finish what read like a bodice ripper to me). In fact, she only mentions those men who are known to have been her lovers when they were work connections, but the story she does tell, about her love for horses and then her infatuation with flying at a time when such an activity was extremely dangerous, all the more so in a place like Africa in the 20s and 30s, when most of the land was plunged in darkness as soon as the night dropped down without warning, and where there were hardly any real landing strips to speak of. She learned from the best and apparently came to be considered one of the best flyers herself, which is why she took on flying solo from East to West to cross the Atlantic from Great Britain to North America in 1936, a route which is much more difficult than going the other way because the of the wind currents. This made her the first woman to have accomplished that feat, though the flight almost ended in disaster and she was unhappy with the fact she hadn't managed to reach New York, as had been originally planned. One doesn't learn much about the woman's inner workings, although it is written as a first person account; she recounts her experiences in a rather detached manner, but always with a touch of what I'd call British humour. I cringed a bit at the description of the hunting parties she took part in, scouting bull elephants from the air to help wealthy foreign hunters kill the largest animals to get their hands on the biggest tusks that could be found, but here again, the quality of the writing was such that I couldn't keep from turning the pages and taking in every single word and turn of phrase. Simply sublime and highly recommended. I'll definitely reread this one some time in future. ( )
1 vote Smiler69 | Dec 31, 2015 |
This is an autobiography (or perhaps more of a memoir? Honestly, I’m not clear on the difference between the two, if any) that shares snippets of Beryl’s life on a horse farm in Africa and later her transition into pilot, which for women in that time was very rare. Being a female horse trainer was also rare and Beryl seems to have lead an extraordinary life for a woman in the mid 1900s. She was actually the first person to fly alone across the Atlantic ocean from East to West.

Back in August (wow, was it really that long ago?) I read Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. It’s a fantastic piece of historical fiction covering Beryl’s life and from the author’s note it does seem that McLain did her best to stay true to Beryl’s experiences. At the time, I hadn’t known Beryl was real and when I discovered that she’d written her own book, I was immediately interested. I regret that it took me four months to pick up this book.

Beryl is a wonderful writer and what set this apart from the few other biographies I’ve read is that Beryl only shares snippets of her life with us. She doesn’t detail her life from birth – in fact, compared to what McLain wrote about (Beryl’s childhood on her father’s horse farm, her estranged relationship with her mother and brother, her marriages, her affair, her child, her father’s second marriage…), Beryl’s book seems sparse. Yet, I think we get a real look into who she was. She highlights poignant and important moments in her life, some action-packed and others more emotionally charged. Her love for horses and flying is clear, despite the negative experiences she’s had with each.

This book was a slow read for me – at just under 300 pages, I didn’t expect it to take me a week – but it was never dry or boring. I don’t mind that I read McLain’s book first, mostly because without it, I never would have known Beryl or her book existed, but also because in McLain’s novel, we get an overview of Beryl’s life and then when reading Beryl’s novel we get to see what she feels readers should know. I’ve never read a work of historical fiction and an autobiography about the same person, so this was an interesting experience for me. I’d recommend both books! ( )
  MillieHennessy | Dec 19, 2015 |
Very good book authored by Beryl Markam. I first read about her in the book Circling the Sun. She was a very real person and I liked her better in her own words. ( )
  lynnytisc | Dec 8, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beryl Markhamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gellhorn, MarthaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I speak of Africa and golden joys." -- Shakespeare, Henry IV, Act V, Sc. 3
For my Father
"I wish to express my gratitude to Raoul Schumacher for his constant encouragement and his assistance in the preparations for this book."
First words
"How is it possible to bring order out of memory?"
Namen sind die Schlüssel für Türen, hinter denen Halbverschüttetes liegt, verschwommen für den Verstand, vertraut jedoch im Herzen. - S.14
Niemals zögern oder zaudern, niemals sich umdrehen und niemals glauben, dass eine Stunde, an die man sich erinnert, eine bessere Stunde ist, weil sie tot ist. Vergangene Jahre scheinen sichere Jahre zu sein, eine entschwundene, gefahrlose Zeit, während die Zukunft, wie in einer konturlosen Wolke, aus der Ferne bedrohlich wirkt. Dringt man in die Wolke ein, so klart sie auf. - S. 144
Ich lernte, was jedes träumende Kind wissen muss - dass kein Horizont zu weit ist, um bis zu ihm und über ihn hinaus vorzustoßen. - S. 198
Was immer der Mensch unternimmt, Würde erlangt sein Bemühen erst, wenn echte Arbeit dahintersteckt, und fühlt man dann das Bedürfnis, sein - im Wortsinn - Handwerk auszuüben, so begreift man, dass die anderen Dinge - all die Experimente, die Eitel- und Nichtigkeiten, denen man nachjagte - ganz einfach unsinnig waren. - S. 298
...every farmer is a midwife. There is no time for mystery. There is only time for patience and care, and hope that what is born is worthy and good. p. 121
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From book cover: 'More than a biography; a poet's feeling for her land; an adventurer's response to life; a philosopher's evaluation of human beings and human destinies'.
This unusual and beautifully written memoir was first published in 1942 to huge critical acclaim. Beryl Markham was born in England in 1902 and has lived in Africa since the age of four. Her father, a horse-breeder, scholar and adventureer, chose East Africa because 'it was new and you could feel the futuer of it under your feet'. She spent her childhood playing with Murani children, hunting with the Murani cheiftan and witnessing her father's patience and labour as he transformed a stretch of wilderness into a working farm. She learnt to speak Swahili, Nandi, Masai. In adolescence she was apprenticed to her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses, and at eighteen became the first woman in Africa to be granted a racehorse trainer's license.

IN 1931, Beryl Markham turned to flying. She carried mail, passengers and supplies to the remote corners of Kenya, the Sudan and was was then Tanganyika and Rhodesia. In September1936 she made worl headlines by becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west - taking off from England and crash landing in Nova Scotia twenty-one hours and twenty-five minutes later. This evocative book is rare and remarkable testimony to an Africa that no longer exists.
Original title: West with the night
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0865471185, Paperback)

One of the most beautifully crafted books I have ever read, with some of the most poetic prose passages I could imagine, such as the following, resonating with a stately and timeless quality so absent in our modern life:
There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.
Born in England in 1902, Markham was taken by her father to East Africa in 1906. She spent her childhood playing with native Maruni children and apprenticing with her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses. In the 1930s, she became an African bush pilot, and in September 1936, became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:26 -0400)

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West with the Night is the story of Beryl Markham--aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty--and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and '30s.

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