review WEST WITH THE NIGHT

At first I thought this book was a autobiography by Beryl Markham. The book is written by Beryl (?, see below), but the book does not tell the whole story of her life. She writes some stories about the early days of the pioneering colonists in the colony of Kenya.

Beryl was born in 1902 and at a young age her father took her to Kenya to reinvent his life. Her mother soon returned to England. In her book she recounts her youth on one of the farms where she lived with her father. Especially her friendship with one of her Kalenjin-agemates Ruta (present writing is Ruto) takes you from one page to the other.  She writes how she enjoyed the company of the Kalenjinmen who live an adventurous and that is what she wants as well. There is a nearfatel encounter with a lion. (The translation of the kalenjin-words in teh book is not always correct). 

She leaves the paternal farm and moves to Njoro to work at a horsefarm. At this farm she works on her reputation as a good horsetrainer and she becomes the first registered female horsetrainer in the country. She take s part in several races throughout the country, where the English colonists have their racedays like they they had them back home in good old England.

While in Njoro she meets a man with a plane and the plane will be her next love (just as the man). She takes up flying and she acts as the mailwoman in Kenya and in other countries, but she also partakes in huntingsafaris as an airrecce. One of the hunters she works for is the Swede Bor Blixen, the husband of Karen Blixen (who wrote  Out of Africa). In the movie based on that book Beryl is shown as Felicity).   

The book ends with her description of her trans-atlantic solo-journey from England to Nova Scotia in 1936. She was the first woman who did it.

Some is known about the lofelive of Beryl, but she herself does not write about it. She had an affair with the son of King George V.

For many years Beryl lived in the United States, but in 1952 she returned to kenya where she took up her life with horses again.

Beryls book was published in  1942, but very soon it was forgotten till someone read about the book in a letter by Ernest Hemingway. In 1983 a reprint was published, three years before her death. A journalist went on a search for her and found Beryl, living in poverty in Nairobi, near the racecourse. Through the reprint she could attain some standard of living. 

Questions have been asked about the authorship of this book. Did she write it herself? If so, why did she never attain this level again? According to her biographer Errol Trzebinski (1993) the third husband of Beryl was the writer of the book. Others mention other names, even  the French pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry, a lover of Beryl, is mentioned.

Beryl Markham – West with the night – 1942

West With the Night

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Published by

semper

I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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