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West with the Night by Beryl Markham

West with the Night (1942)

by Beryl Markham

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This is a memoir of British-born Kenyan bush pilot Beryl Markham “West with the Night” (first printed in 1942; North Point Press, 2013, 2nd edition). The book describes Markham’s African childhood and her many adventures, including flying solo across the Atlantic from east to west. Every chapter functions as a stand-alone tale, and the writing is so beautiful and evocative that even Ernest Hemingway was swept away with it. ( )
  svetlanagrobman | Mar 2, 2015 |
We all loved this book, the lyrical language and writing, graphic descriptions and story of a groundbreaking adventurous woman. The audio version of this book is amazing with accents, pronunciations and delivery. Dinner at Mamma Mia's Italian restaurant, Landstuhl. 1/9/15 ( )
  Bibliofemmes | Jan 9, 2015 |
Beryl Markham was born in England, but grew up with her father in Kenya in the early part of the 20th century. Her childhood afforded her considerable independence; on her father's farm she mingled freely with native people and even learned to hunt game. As a young woman she became an accomplished horse trainer, and then learned to fly aircraft. This memoir takes the reader up to her most notable aeronautic feat, being the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean from east to west in 1936.

Beryl's childhood and young adulthood were fascinating. Hers was far from a typical colonial upbringing, and it seemed she was almost exclusively in the company of men. She was one of very few women in the horse racing world, but proved herself to the skeptical and more experienced. Later, she flew her plane on scouting missions for safari operators -- again, probably the only woman to make a living in this way.

Reading this memoir, I was fascinated with her life experiences, although I found the elephant safari segments extremely unsettling. While she focused entirely on her role -- locating herds and reporting back to the safari leader -- and didn't glamorize it in the least, Beryl clearly contributed to the slaughter of elephants for ivory. This was acceptable practice at the time, but it's still awful when seen through 21st century eyes. West With the Night was also surprisingly devoid of women. Beryl's mother left her father, she had no female friends growing up, and her professional colleagues were all men. Was this reality, or due to the scope of this memoir?

Still, this was a fascinating portrait of a fascinating woman. ( )
3 vote lauralkeet | Jul 19, 2014 |
Also read in Fall 2001

My first review:
Part of the Africa and flying kick; Isak Dinensen, Elspeth Huxley, Heat of the Sun. I liked the familar characters and her description of Africa when she was a child was evocative but it started to thin out in her adult life and I would have loved more than a brief chapter on her Atlantic flight. The final chapter esp. was light. Started with a bang but mostly ended with a whimper. Reading about hunting was disturbing. I know it was a huge part of life there but I don't want to read about it.

Second read:

A tearing reread for bookgroup left me with much the same impression as before, it starts out great guns with her early life growing up on a farm and horse training stable in Kenya. She goes on become a noted horse trainer herself and then leaves it behind to become a pilot. The stories of her early life and becoming a pilot are interesting but she seems to loose any interest in what happens as she gets up to the big event the book is named for; her trans Atlantic flight from West to East. It just peters out. I also noticed how little she gives away of herself duing the book. I know some other things about her but they never slide out here. It's interesting and parts are very beautifully written but it lacks a certain something when all is said and done.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
This is a beautifully written memoir/biography, originally published in 1942, which covers the formative years, horse training years, and flying years of a most amazing woman. There is a great deal of controversy over whether this book was actually written by Beryl Markham or was, instead, written by one of her lovers/husbands. Having read it, I don't think there's any doubt that someone else actually penned the book (and did an incredible job in so doing), but it does not change the fact that Beryl Markham lead a very interesting life, well worth reading about.

She lived with her father in Kenya (then called British East Africa) at a time when British Colonialism was coming to a close, successfully educated herself as a horse trainer (which was probably unusual for women in the late 1920s/early 1930s, most especially in Kenya), and then became the first female pilot in Africa, going on to break distance records and set records for flying which even males had not yet accomplished. If you want to know about Africa in the 1920s and 1930s, want to know about horse training, or want to know about flying in that period put this fascinating book on your list. ( )
1 vote whymaggiemay | Apr 28, 2014 |
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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."
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"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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:49 -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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