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Straight on till Morning: The Biography of Beryl Markham (1987)

by Mary S. Lovell

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In this comprehensive biography, Mary S. Lovell details the life of Beryl Markham from her birth in England and move with her parents to Kenya to her death in 1986 just before the book was published.

Lovell draws primarily on interviews with Beryl herself and family & friends. The result is a sympathetic portrayal of a woman who didn't always play by society's rules, had multiple tumultuous or tragic relationships, and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west (the hard way). The book has a gossipy feel, partially because interviews were such a major source of information and partially because expatriates in Kenya were a close knit and gossipy bunch. Lovell tries her best to separate fact from rumor, and it makes for entertaining reading. ( )
  bell7 | Apr 7, 2017 |
biography of Beryl Markham - fabulous exciting life she led - Africa, flying, novelist, Trauma, knew Princes, Ernest Hemingway, etc. - elegant silk shirts, trousers

Beryl Markham, who died in 1986, was the first person to fly solo from England to America. The full story of her adventures across three continents are revealed in this biography of a lady whose fame as a pioneer flyer and leading racehorse trainer, was only exceeded by her beauty and controversial character.
  christinejoseph | Sep 11, 2015 |
I loved [book:West With the Night] that I read several months ago so I was interested in foraging for the real story behind Beryl Markham’s solo flight west across the Atlantic, her childhood in Africa and her relationship with several famous men of the early twentieth century. Beryl’s father was a failed (bankrupt) British my officer who fled to British Fast Africa where he realized the potential for profit in supplying wood to the government, which had embarked on an ambitious railroad-building project. Soon he was a large landowner employing over 1000 Africans. Beryl grew up surrounded by natives; she participated in their customs, learned their language, practiced their survival techniques, and played their games. In fact, their habits became so ingrained that even as an adult she insisted on going everywhere barefoot whenever she could.

She developed several close friendships with native children who taught her tracking skills and jungle lore. She learned to walk in absolute silence, her feet gliding over the leaves of the forest without making go much as a sound lest she be ridiculed by her companions. Friends remarked she still walked in this manner sixty years later, "as though she had wings on her ankles." Surprisingly, she was allowed to participate in hunts. Because she was the European memsahib she could order the natives around. Hunting was primarily a male activity, and had she been African she would not have been allowed to participate. This was still wild Africa. It teemed with lions and other untamed animals. She remained unafraid and was somewhat of a prankster. While barely twelve years old, she and a friend killed a deadly black mamba snake with some sticks, and then proceeded to parade around holding the snake aloft on the top of their primitive weapons. Beryl's mother soon returned to England (Beryl never forgave her - in her autobiography she never once mentions her.)

Beryl had an extraordinary affinity for horses. She was the first woman ever to be granted a trainer's license in Kenya. Her horses consistently won at the races. In more than one instance she bought and successfully trained reputedly unmanageable horses: in one case even a killer. The natives gave Swahili names to all the Europeans, and Beryl's name was translated as "she who cannot fall off a horse."

Her marriages were not as successful. She was very headstrong and her promiscuous behavior was difficult for most of the husbands to tolerate. It was even rumored that she was the mother of Prince Henry's child, heir to the British throne. Lovell presents evidence that Beryl could not have been the mother, but the Queen Mother was so concerned about the possibility of scandal (Beryl had already been divorced once and was married to someone else while she was fooling around with Henry) that they bought her off with a lifetime annuity that continued to be paid until Beryl's death in 1986.

She was an excellent pilot; her solo flight west to North America from England was no society dame's lark. Aside from the length of the flight, she made it in a new type of plane, virtually untested, and against strong headwinds. When she successfully survived a crash-landing in a bog in Newfoundland -- itself no small feat, it would have been a perfect landing had one of the wheels not sunk into the muck, causing the plane to nose forward -- the plane had completely dry fuel tanks. She landed only one hundred yards from the edge of the ocean. Interviewed at age eighty-three, she admitted it was probably the only time in her life she was really scared and ever after she hated flying over water. ( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Not as good as West in the Night but still furthers your understanding of a remarkable lady. Has several sections of pictures of her life.
  tivonut | Jul 25, 2013 |
3228. Straight On Till Morning: The Biography of Beryl Markham, by Mary S. Lovell (read 9 Aug 1999) This is a carefully researched book, and while it necessarily does a lot of attention-giving to gossip and name-dropping, the life Beryl Markham led is a truly extraordinary one. I suppose the life is not really significant but the book is well put together and its ending is moving. It is full of interesting things like that George VI's brother settled a life-time annuity on Markham, his erstwhile affair-mate. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 19, 2007 |
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The story of the noble-born unconventional Englishwoman, Beryl Markham, who became a famous aviator.

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