West with the Night
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The classic memoir of Africa, aviation, and adventure—the inspiration for Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun and “a bloody wonderful book” (Ernest Hemingway).
Beryl Markham’s life story is a true epic. Not only did she set records and break barriers as a pilot, she shattered societal expectations, threw herself into torrid love affairs, survived desperate crash landings—and chronicled everything. A contemporary of Karen Blixen (better known as Isak Dinesen, the author of Out of Africa), Markham left an enduring memoir that soars with astounding candor and shimmering insights.
A rebel from a young age, the British-born Markham was raised in Kenya’s unforgiving farmlands. She trained as a bush pilot at a time when most Africans had never seen a plane. In 1936, she accepted the ultimate challenge: to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, a feat that fellow female aviator Amelia Earhart had completed in reverse just a few years before. Markham’s successes and her failures—and her deep, lifelong love of the “soul of Africa”—are all told here with wrenching honesty and agile wit.
Hailed as “one of the greatest adventure books of all time” by Newsweek and “the sort of book that makes you think human beings can do anything” by the New York Times, West with the Night remains a powerful testament to one of the iconic lives of the twentieth century.
“[Markham] has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. . . . It is really a bloody wonderful book.” —Ernest Hemingway in a letter to editor Maxwell Perkins “With the skill of someone who has filled long nights with stories, Markham recounts her adventures—discoveries, rescues, and narrow escapes, the glint of an airplane abandoned in the desert, the look of a lion about to pounce. . . . Much more than a pilot’s memoir, West With the Night is a wise, funny, and inspiring exploration of a life well lived.” —The Nation
Born in 1902 in Ashwell, England, and raised in Kenya, Beryl Markham was a celebrated aviator and horse trainer whose memoir, West with the Night, remains a classic of the genre. When she was four, her family settled in Njoro, Kenya. Her mother soon returned to England, but Markham stayed, living in Kenya for the rest of her life. A noted maverick, she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west and the first person to fly nonstop from England to North America. Her memoir earned early critical praise and, upon its reprinting in 1982, became a surprise bestseller. Markham died in 1986.
Hemingway himself states that Markham's writing makes him want to quit writing out of inadequacy. It's a memoir and at times there are holes, and more needed to have been written. But she captures growing up in east Africa, training race horses there, spear hunting with the bush men and eventually becoming a bush pilot. Not only is the material gripping but her writing is simply stunning. If you liked Out of Africa, this is a must read.
West with the Night
This book was so powerful that upon my first read I was compelled to fly to Africa and visit Kenya. Through this inspired trip, I felt the passion that Markham wrote so eloquently of her beloved Africa. It truly is a remarkable book of a wonderful life.
À book to read often
Every time you read it, you will discover a different facet...