West with the Night

by Beryl Markham

This book group selection was a very quick read. Originally I thought this book would be an autobiography, but it leaves out so much of her life, that it’s probably best described or categorized as a limited memoir. In any event, it makes a fascinating story told in beautiful, poetic prose.

Beryl Markham led a remarkable life. She grew up in Africa with her father, raised/bred/raced thoroughbred horses, became the first women in Africa to get her commercial grade pilots license, and scouted for safaris…and that’s not to mention the many adventures and death defying episodes of her childhood. The title of the book refers to her experience as the first person to cross the Atlantic from East to West. She loved Africa and had great appreciation for its many faces. The book imparts an image of a very reserved character who enjoys the silence and solitude that is endemic to the life of an African bush pilot in the 1930s. In our book group meeting, there were numerous comments on her apparent dispassion or distance from the stories she told. I’m more inclined to believe that she felt things closely and held the people who were important to her close to her heart, but was inclined to keep those aspects of her character private…not only from her readers, but also from those who were closest to her.

As usual, I checked my book out from the library. One day at lunch, I noticed Lynn had a different library copy and I just felt completely gypped…her copy included pictures! She was kind enough to let me look at them, but that just led to additional amazement. The pictures included photos of Beryl as a 16-year-old bride as well as pictures from her 2nd marriage that included snapshots of her mother. The entire memoir never once mentioned marriage, or any contact she had with her mother. Through the discussion we had at book group, it turns out she also had a child and was considered fairly promiscuous…something that doesn’t come across at all in the book. With all of these revelations, I must again confess (as I did after reading Benjamin Franklin) that I’m very interested in reading more about Beryl Markham. I understand The Lives of Beryl Markham by Errol Trzebinski would be a good biography to pick up next.

Posted by jfer at March 30, 2004 11:39 PM | TrackBack

Post a comment

Remember personal info?