West with the Night

 

West with the Night               by Beryl Markham

Beryl Markham was in East Africa in the 1930s when Denys Finch Hatton ( Too Close to the Sun )was there and they knew each other, probably had a brief liaison. But Beryl is writing her own story and writes it well.

Growing up in the African wilderness, she learned to hunt with the Murani in the Rongai valley of Kenya from early childhood. She wasn’t allowed to carry a spear until she was  a little older. Markham grew up speaking several native languages. In this memoir, she uses English to beguile the reader into turning another page. Her language is poetically descriptive but she sticks to the story and tells it in a matter of fact way.

Elephant hunting with Baron von Blixen, she has to fly in  on a very short and makeshift runway in the bush to rescue him and his safari guest.  She dreaded damage to her plane in landing on the rough ground  which she compares to “galloping a horse on concrete.”

“The smoke rose in enormous grey mushrooms and I could see pink whips of flame snap in the sunlight. Both men jumped up and down and gesticulated with their arms as if, for months past, they had fed altogether on flowers that confer a kind of inspired lunacy.” It is easy to see the two frantic men desperately waving their arms as she flies over them.

She was the first woman pilot to fly commercial flights. She later attempted to be the first person-man or woman- to fly across the Atlantic from England to America .

Hemingway who knew Beryl Markham, read this book and told a friend,  “She has written it so well, and so  marvelously well that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words..” He urged his friend to get ahold of the book and read it. And I say “Hear, Hear!! Her story inspires me to be less timid and get out there and try something exciting and a little dangerous!!

Favorite quote:

“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.” ( Beryl Markham)

 

 

 

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