West with the Night

This week I’ve been reading a book called West with the Night by Beryl Markham. It’s interesting, I think, that I began this blogging “season” with Africa, and now I’m back!

My professor was in Kenya writing about his experiences, and Beryl is all over Africa, though raised in Kenya. She discusses her childhood growing up there with only her father and the people who lived nearby. Beryl learned with the Nandi Murani tribe how to hunt barefoot. They called her Lakweit.

As a child she was also attacked by a lion. Which, woah. Who has those memories? I think the only traumatic events I had to deal with as a child were my parents divorcing and one story I have about taking my roller skates off in the summer to see a mosquito the size of a mayfly on my ankle. I have nothing to compare with being mauled.

When she grew up (and how she begins the novel) she became a pilot. She is hired by people to carry things from one destination to another in her plane. With this she talks about the loneliness of the pitch black sky at night and when one pilot goes missing, she discusses her worries about that. She is one of very few pilots in Africa, so she takes responsibility to go find the missing pilot.

She also was raised around horses. Her dad raised thoroughbreds for racing. She has one funny story about a zebra who joined their herd for a while as a baby, and then some time in adulthood just left on a whim.

I already admire her. I suppose I have a tendency to do this with people I read about. In some ways it’s putting them on a pedestal, and in other ways it is simply envy. I am passionate about the things I do and work for, but I often worry I will never be “great” or “memorable” for any substantial reason. Reading about a woman who was the first to receive a pilot’s license in Africa and the first licensed woman horse trainer is pretty spectacular. She is also the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo. That’s right, it wasn’t Amelia Earhart. In fact, Amelia is quoted saying she was “delighted beyond words that Mrs Markham should have succeeded in her exploit.”

I haven’t gotten to the “exciting” part of the book yet. Eventually, Beryl will crash her plane.

This is on the same trans-Atlantic flight. She was flying against prevailing winds.

Seriously, this woman makes the word hardcore look like a puppy. She’s also very beautiful. In the traditional sense, yes, but more than that. She has this look about her that says she has taken on the world and succeeded. Her eyes have a determined sparkle and her smile is knowingly coy. You can just tell she knows who she is and that she’s important. At the same time, it’s not an arrogant look she has.

Plus she rides and trains horses for a living, so she’s obviously the cat’s pajamas. Probably a lion’s pajamas, if we’re going to be honest.

The upcoming week is finals week and I’m scrambling to get everything ready and done before summer hits. I’m going to probably end up procrastinating by finishing this novel.

Over the summer I’m planning on continuing to read! The blog may turn into an Australia blog after July 10, though, and less reading will get done. I’ll be making my own travelogue!

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2 thoughts on “West with the Night

  1. If you are digging Beryl M. and want to see the marked diff between autobio and memoir, read Isak Dinsen’s (aka Karen Blixen’s) Out of Africa THEN read her Collected Letters (hell, watch Redford & Streep in the movie too). Beryl mentions Karen & Denys Finch Hatton offhandedly in WWTN. For more flying adventures try Antoine de St. Exupery’s Wind, Sand, Stars (he’s way more famous in french class for le petit prince). It is amazing! Although you can FF>> through the philosophizing and get up in the air around Africa & South America.

  2. Actually it’s “Letters from Africa, 1914-1931” by Isak Dinesen not Collected Letters. I haven’t read her cousin/husband’s letters… mostly because he was a bastard to her. Reading “Bror Blixen: The Africa Letters” would (I’m certain) be an interesting counterpoint and gender comparison. It’s amazing what get’s left in and out of these tales.

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