West With the Night

West With the Night

Book - 2013
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A new edition of a great, underappreciated classic of our time

Beryl Markham's West with the Night is a true classic, a book that deserves the same acclaim and readership as the work of her contemporaries Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Isak Dinesen.

If the first responsibility of a memoirist is to lead a life worth writing about, Markham succeeded beyond all measure. Born Beryl Clutterbuck in the middle of England, she and her father moved to Kenya when she was a girl, and she grew up with a zebra for a pet; horses for friends; baboons, lions, and gazelles for neighbors. She made money by scouting elephants from a tiny plane. And she would spend most of the rest of her life in East Africa as an adventurer, a racehorse trainer, and an aviatrix--she became the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America, the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic. Hers was indisputably a life full of adventure and beauty.

And then there is the writing. When Hemingway read Markham's book, he wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: "She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer . . . [She] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers . . . It is really a bloody wonderful book."

With a new introduction by Sara Wheeler--one of Markham's few legitimate literary heirs-- West with the Night should once again take its place as one of the world's great adventure stories.

Publisher: New York : North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2013
ISBN: 9780865477636
Branch Call Number: B M3393a8
Characteristics: xv, 293 pages ; 21 cm


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Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Dec 13, 2018

​A couple of years ago, I read a historical novel about Beryl Markham (Paula McLain's "Circling the Sun") and it piqued my curiosity about her, and made me eager to read her own account of her life. I finally did so this year, and I'm so glad I did, because she was a fascinating woman -- and boy, could she write. She writes vividly and evocatively, without any unnecessarily embellishment but incredibly beautifully nonetheless. This book is about her life growing up in Africa and learning to fly and the people she knew and it painted such a vivid portrait of a bygone era in far-flung places that by the end of the book, I felt like I was sitting next to her in her plane, soaring above the lands that she loved so much.

Jun 07, 2018

I read this book when it first came out. It’s heautifully written and I highly recommend for teens and adults. Meryl Markham was a wonderful pioneer.

Jun 06, 2018

Beautifully, beautifully written. This is a book to share the author's feelings and impressions of her adventuresome life, mostly in east Africa as it transitioned into the 20th Century. It is not a detailed recounting of biographical facts.

Apr 07, 2018

Aviatrix Beryl Markham's beautifully crafted memoir recounts an unconventional life, passionately lived, as a race horse trainer and pilot in 1920's,'30's Kenya. She is best known
as the first pilot to successfully fly solo west across the Atlantic. Paula McClain's fictionalized
biography,"Circling the Sun" ( which I also read) felt anemic in comparison.

Jan 14, 2018

Autobiography of aviatrix who grew up in colonial East Africa, telling tales of youth and culminating in a recounting of her solo westward flight across the North Atlantic, the first such flight. Remarkable book.

Feb 04, 2017

Having read the novel "Circling the Sun" about Markham's life, and "Out of Africa," Isak Dinesen's memoir, in which Markham appears, I was eager to read Markham's own memoir. While she's a wonderful descriptive writer about Africa, the book disappoints. The edition I read has an intro by Sara Wheeler, which points out that Markham doesn't mention any of her three husbands, or her son. A private person, indeed. Dinesen's memoir says that Denys Hatton Finch invited her along on what turned out to be his fatal flight; Markham claims it was her, and never mentions Dinesen at all. But Dinesen's ex, "Blixt" has a prominent role in the elephant hunting section. All this is confusing. Yet Beryl's description of her African childhood rings totally true: barefoot, Swahili as her first language, a pet zebra, taught to hunt by the Native boys, as does her mutual adoration for her horse-trainer father. A completely passionate person, how does she later switch completely from horses to flying? The book feels more like a string of well-written, but too often disconnected, essays than a well put together memoir.

Jul 20, 2016

Alas, I wish I had enjoyed WEST WITH THE NIGHT more than I did. After reading Paula McLain’s historical fiction, CIRCLING THE SUN, I was prompted to read this memoir by Beryl Markham, the real-life subject of CIRCLING THE SUN. Ms. Markham’s descriptive prose clearly demonstrates her passion for the land, wildlife, and native peoples of Africa, but oftentimes I found it too wordy to follow easily. There is not a real story thread here, but rather a series of disjointed episodes from Ms. Markham’s life: her childhood encounters with animals, her teenage/young adult experiences as a horse trainer, and her adult safari/ flying adventures. To say she led an exciting and unconventional life is an understatement, but Ms. Markham was apparently a very private person and reveals little about her feelings and relationships in this narrative. I felt I learned more about Beryl Markham, the woman, in Paula McLain’s novel. Another interesting observation and appreciation I had while reading WEST WITH THE NIGHT, first published in 1942, was how much social mores and attitudes toward gender, race, environment, and animal rights have changed (and for the better) since this book was written.

Apr 11, 2016

June '16 Book Club

Oct 15, 2015

How nice to stumble upon a significant female historical figure and learn some interesting history. With her memoir, no less. I have seen reviews which compare this to "Out of Africa", and I admit that I was unable to stick with that particular book (but appreciated the movie). This is a wonderful presentation of a childhood in Africa and the life of an aviatrix in the early 1900's. I enjoyed the book, and learned new things at the same time!! Nice!

Aug 08, 2015

This book, her brilliance, cured me of my fear of flying and inspired me to long to be a pilot. I loved every word.

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