by Beryl Markham
This book was not at all what I expected. From the cover images (the author in flight helmet, and on the back, her plane crashed in a swamp) and synopsis I read online, I assumed it was about early aviation. The author lived in Africa at a time when planes were very new and roads scarce, so there was always work to do in her small plane flying people and medical supplies to remote areas of the country, or searching for other lost pilots. I thought the book would mostly be about these flights, but I was quite wrong. West with the Night contains memoirs of Markham's childhood on her father's horse farm, and later her own work training race horses as the first woman licensed to do so in the country. Her writing is beautiful and poetic, the words ones to savor and turn over in your mind. Besides some lovely passages about horses, there is a lot about the African countryside and its wildlife. As a small child, Markham was attacked by a semi-tame lion that lived about the horse ranch. When older (but still very young) she went on hunts for warthog, lion and elephant, accompanied by native tribesmen and her loyal dog Buller. Many times the hunted beasts turned against them, in some hair-raising situations. The wild countryside, broad and nearly untouched by man, is nearly a personality itself in her pages. As is her plane. Accounts of her flights over desolate country, through darkness and storm and across the Atlantic in a record-breaking trip, grace the beginning and end of the book. I can't say which I preferred, reading about the horses and African wildlife, or reading about her flights in a small plane- both were engrossing and captivating. And have you ever had the thrill of coming across a character in a book, who was friends with one you knew in a different book entirely? Markham knew the von Blixens, and Denys Finch-Hatton, whom I met in the pages of Out of Africa. In fact, this book reminds me a lot of Out of Africa, far more so than it does Wind Sand and Stars, or the many books I once read about Charles Lindbergh. You can read a bit more about Beryl Markham here. Her book is one that should not be forgotten, it is such a treasure to read.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 294 pages, 1942
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