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West with the Night (1942)

by Beryl Markham

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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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Beryl Markham (1902-1986) certainly led an adventurous life. Born in England, she moved to Kenya (then British East Africa) at age four. Her life included “up close and personal” experiences with African wildlife, training racehorses, and flying aircraft. She flew the African bush, bringing medical supplies to remote locations, spotting wildlife, and searching for downed pilots. She flew from Nairobi to London. She was the first woman to fly solo east to west over the Atlantic, from England to Nova Scotia.

Published in 1942, the majority of the book is focused on her life in Africa. She encounters lions, elephants, warthogs, zebras, and more. The final two chapters describe her solo flight. She keeps her private life private, sticking to career, colleagues, friends, and family.

What a wonderful memoir. Markham definitely had a way with words. Her writing is descriptive, eloquent, and artistic. Her love for Africa is unmistakable. I felt a sense of accompanying her on her flights. If you are looking for well-written non-fiction about a strong woman that led the life of a non-conformist, pick this one up. As an added bonus, Anna Fields does a first-rate job of voice acting in the audio book. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Lyrical prose, but an incohesive story. It reads like cobbled together diary excerpts chosen at random with a D20 - only very prettily written. The racist colonialism in her attitude, such as when she praises someone for talking to the African natives "with the same respect he employed in addressing his equals", was unpleasant to read. I would have gladly suffered that discomfort to learn something but not so much to read about her adventures. The attitude towards animals wasn't particularly enjoyable either. There's no actual knowledge to be had from this either. It's just her rambling on from a privileged and biased perspective. Eloquent but devoid of substance.

All in all, I found it a bit dull, and nowhere near educational enough to tolerate the unpleasant social perspective.

DNFed at page 150. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Sep 13, 2022 |
After reading [b:Circling the Sun|23995231|Circling the Sun|Paula McLain|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1426531608s/23995231.jpg|43446210], I was anxious to read Beryl Markham's own account of her life, and it was well worth reading. What a remarkable woman, so fearless and capable and well-ahead of her time.

I am always taken by the way books set in Africa become somehow about the country in a way that transforms it into almost a character in itself. I certainly felt that from Markham, that Africa was more than a place to her, that it was a spirit, a soul. Her writing style is very tactile.

Hot night wind stalked through the thorn trees and leleshwa that surrounded the clearing. It bore the odour of swampland, the smell of Lake Victoria, the breath of weeds and sultry plains and tangled bush. It whipped at the oil flares and snatched at the surfaces of the Avian. But there was loneliness in it and aimlessness, as if its passing were only a sterile duty lacking even the beneficent promise of rain.

I could feel that wind and smell the swamps. Her stories unfold seamlessly and you are there with her seeing and feeling and knowing Africa and its people. Markham is not a white woman living in Africa, apart from the native inhabitants, she is a part of Africa...she hunts with Nandi, she lives an African life.

The distant roar of a waking lion rolls against the stillness of the night, and we listen. It is the voice of Africa bringing memories that do not exist in our minds or in our hearts--perhaps not even in our blood. It is out of time, but it is there, and it spans a chasm whose other side we cannot see.

Ultimately, Beryl Markham becomes the first person to make the Atlantic flight, east to west, solo. She is fearless in flight, just as she was fearless in every other aspect of her life.

I loved this passage. She was speaking of Africa, but it rang so true to me of life itself:

Blix would see it again and so should I one day. And still it was gone. Seeing it again could not be living it again. You can always rediscover an old path and wonder over it, but the best you can do then is to say, 'Ah, yes, I know this turning!' -- or remind yourself that, while you remember that unforgettable valley, the valley no longer remembers you.

Finally, on reading this book, Ernest Hemingway said "I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job...but she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers." High praise from a writer who would know.

Very happy that I was pointed in the direction of knowing Beryl Markham better. I have great admiration for her and strongly recommend this marvelous book. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
nice historical of Africa and I like true stories, A bookclub book recommended by Jenny Wood. ( )
  PatLibrary123 | Aug 9, 2022 |
"To see ten thousand animals untamed and not branded with the symbols of human commerce is like scaling an unconquered mountain for the first time, or like finding a forest without roads or footpaths, or the blemish of an axe.
You know then what you had always been told — that the world once lived and grew without adding machines and newsprint and brick-walled streets and the tyranny of clocks."

This is a really good, very nice idiosyncratic style and just a remarkable life Markham led. Still it does seem oddly impersonal, you’d might think reading this that she never had any romantic relationships.
But a quick glance at reviews of the biography of her, proves that that was very much not the case, there’s also some question apparently of whether she wrote all this herself.

Hadn’t planned on reading that biography, those aren't usually my thing but this is a such a fascinating but obviously incomplete picture of Beryl Markham i’m feeling a little compelled too. I would definitely recommend reading this first though. Really good stuff.

“You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself.
You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness. If you read a book, or shuffle a deck of cards, or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself.
The abhorrence of loneliness is as natural as wanting to live at all.”
( )
  wreade1872 | Jul 25, 2022 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Markham, Berylprimary 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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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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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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