West with the Night Info

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The classic memoir of Africa, aviation, and
adventure—the inspiration for Paula McLain’s Circling
the Sun
and “a bloody wonderful book” (Ernest
Hemingway).

 Beryl Markham’s life story is a
true epic. Not only did she set records and break barriers as a pilot,
she shattered societal expectations, threw herself into torrid love
affairs, survived desperate crash landings—and chronicled
everything. A contemporary of Karen Blixen (better known as Isak
Dinesen, the author of Out of Africa), Markham left an enduring
memoir that soars with astounding candor and shimmering insights.

 
A rebel from a young age, the British-born Markham was
raised in Kenya’s unforgiving farmlands. She trained as a bush
pilot at a time when most Africans had never seen a plane. In 1936, she
accepted the ultimate challenge: to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean
from east to west, a feat that fellow female aviator Amelia Earhart had
completed in reverse just a few years before. Markham’s successes
and her failures—and her deep, lifelong love of the “soul
of Africa”—are all told here with wrenching honesty and
agile wit.
 
Hailed as “one of the greatest
adventure books of all time” by Newsweek and “the
sort of book that makes you think human beings can do anything”
by the New York Times, West with the Night remains a powerful
testament to one of the iconic lives of the twentieth century.

 

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for West with the Night:

4

February 3, 2016

Circling the Sun or West w/Night?
I've never read a voice like this--not because of the style, though. Yes, the writing is good and beautiful in parts, but if Hemingway really did say that Markham was a better writer than he, I disagree. For me, the complex long sentences tripped over their own feet at times, overextending metaphor where Hemingway's simplicity would have done better. No--it was the workings of Markham's mind, her philosophy and decision process, that I found truly incredible.

Paula McClain's book Circling the Sun is a fictional memoir of Beryl Markham, and West with the Night is her actual memoir. I wondered at first why McClain would choose Markham of all people to fictionalize, when Markham had already spoken for herself in this memoir. I was almost irritated. After all, Markham is dead. She can't speak up and say, "that's not how it happened. Read the book I ALREADY WROTE if you want to know." Now that I've finished West with the Night, I understand why Mcclain wanted to write Circling the Sun.

Markham writes about how she came to hunt with the Masai tribe as a child in Africa, and how she came to love and train horses (when there were no other women doing it), and how she came to fly planes (when hardly anyone, let alone women, was doing it), but she dwells not at all on her personal relationships or feelings, which for the curious reader should provide context and explanation of Markham's unusual talent and viewpoint.

She writes more about the moody, wise, indifferent nature of Africa than she writes about her own feelings. We have no idea, for instance, what it felt like when her mother left Markham and her father to return to England when Markham was four years old. You don't even know from West with the Night that Markham's father practically forced her into marrying an older man at the age of 17 because her father was moving and didn't know what else to do with her. These events undoubtedly shaped Markham's courage and ambition, but West with the Night doesn't tell us how.

West with the Night is the end result of some strange fomentation within the person of Markham. She writes without arrogance and with plenty of humor about all of her 'firsts.' To Markham, they were simply good ideas. She cared nothing for, or even seemed to think about at all, what other people thought of her. She moved in circles that other women never entered, and was treated as one of the boys. In making life decisions, like the decision to move to Britain, for instance, she was pointed solely by the needle of her own compass. She was happy flying and scouting game in Africa, but wondered what she might be missing. So she moved. Apparently, men followed her. I admit to my morbid curiosity on this point, and I may read Circling the Sun for McClain's take on the other parts of Markham's life.

On the other hand, I may not read it. Markham's critics accuse her of not writing her own memoir (it's too good, they say, to be written by her), and of being a home-wrecker. Her critics look for opportunities to criticize her, for of course she is too unbelievable to escape jealousy. Our curiosity about Markham's personal life shares also this unbelieving desire to justify, to show how the rest of us may have gotten from Point A to Markham's Point Z if only we'd been born into similar circumstances. Really, all you need to know is that she did these things, in spite of fear, and did them well. She was luminous and rare. You can sit back and be inspired by her story without having to justify, explain, or otherwise take away from its magnificence by delving into a personal life she preferred to leave private.
5

October 8, 2015

Lions and Jungles and Planes, Oh My!
Sheer poetry! I've never been to Africa, I've never flown a plane, I've never trained a race horse... Neither had Ms. Markham until one day, there she was, a British child--an only child--in the highlands of Kenya, her feet at the starting line of becoming the amazing woman she would become. To read this is similar to watching a time-lapse photographic record of an exotic flower bursting into bloom--all the more fascinating because the subject isn't a simple flower but a human being. By doing, one becomes!
The story culminates in an epic, trans-Atlantic flight, but along the way it reads like a marvelous bed-time story--the kind that the Aesop's Fables author might have written if he had lived in Africa, observing human and animal nature in an era that feels farther removed from today than a mere century should seem.
I enjoyed three things about this book: the beautiful language with which it is written, the observations of a world I will never see, and the affirmation that yes, it is possible to become all that one might be if only one takes that first step and then the next and the next.
5

November 13, 2017

Exquisite
This is a stunning book, with gorgeous sentences enough to stop you so you can catch your breath, only to read them over again and highlight them so you can go back and read them again once more. The remains doubt whether Beryl Markham wrote them, or if they were written by her screenwriter third husband Raoul Schumacher. Out of Africa, written by Karen Blixen under the pen name Isak Dinesen, had always been my favorite memoir. West with the Night, is equal in its beauty, and I hesitate to say, maybe more so. The romance with which we become infatuated, is Africa as well as hunting, horse training, and flying. In a sentence such as this one, how can it not:
“It is still the host of all my darkest fears, the cradle of mysteries always intriguing, but never wholly solved. It is the remembrance of sunlight and green hills, cool water and the yellow warmth of bright mornings. It is as ruthless as any sea, more uncompromising than its own deserts. It is without temperance in its harshness or in its favours. It yields nothing, offering much to men of all races.”
And in reading this passage, I can only weep. This is the writing Hemingway praised in his review, “she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer…she can write rings around us all…”
“There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.”
In understanding how Beryl Markham lived her life, this quote reminds me to aspire to the same. “It is no good telling yourself that one day you will wish you had never made that change; it is no good anticipating regrets. Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.” And when she wrote about time and change, it grips my heart for its beauty is transcendent: “Life had a different shape; it had new branches and some of the old branches were dead. It had followed the constant pattern of discard and growth that all lives follow. Things had passed, new things had come.”
Even Isak Dinesen didn’t write about an elephant as descriptively, “His gargantuan ears began to spread as if to capture even the sound of our heartbeats.”
Or the way she describes her aeroplane in the cross-Atlantic flight. “She found a sky so blue and so still that it seemed the impact of a wing might splinter it, and we slid across a surface of white clouds as if the plane were a sleigh running on fresh-fallen snow. The light was blinding — like light that in summer fills an Arctic scene and is in fact its major element.”
And her exquisite description of a brothel keeper, in a dirty cockroach infested, windowless building is a passage of stunning prose that is painfully beautiful. It must be one of the passages that Hemingway envied, and if I can dare include myself, that I can only aspire to write a character with such eloquence. “She had long since forgotten the meaning of a smile, but the physical ability to make the gesture remained. Like the smile of a badly controlled puppet, hers was overdone, and after she had disappeared, and the pad of her slippers was swallowed somewhere in the corridors of the dark house, the fixed, fragile grin still hung in front of my eyes — detached and almost tangible. It floated in the room; it had the same sad quality as the painted trinkets children win at circus booths and cherish until they are broken. I felt that the grin of the brothel keeper would shatter if it were touched and fall to the floor in pieces.”
We can never go back again, begins one of the best lines from Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but this one about Africa is close, “Seeing it again could not be living it again. You can always rediscover an old path and wander over it, but the best you can do then is to say, ‘Ah, yes, I know this turning!’ — or remind yourself that, while you remember that unforgettable valley, the valley no longer remembers you.”
I know I have written a long tribute to this exceptional memoir. Whether written by Markham, co-written, or ghost written, it is most certainly brilliant, and if you aspire to write, it is in my humble opinion a requirement. I will include one more, if only because its intrinsic truth has gripped my heart. “You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness.”
1

October 30, 2015

One Star
Very tedious.
3

July 29, 2018

A meandering read with beautiful prose.
A lovely, lyrical book that doesn’t have much plot. West With the Night by Beryl Markham is a different book. It’s different in that the book is a memoir, but it isn’t told in a linear way. Chapters bounce around to different time periods, and different times in Beryl’s life, and there isn’t any plot that connects all of these chapters together. It almost reads like short stories. You can pick the book up, read a chapter, any chapter, and then set the book down and not pick it up for months and just fall right back in.
The prose is absolutely gorgeous. The descriptive passages transport the reader to British East Africa, and to the world of elephants, horses, siafu ants, hunting, and flying planes. There are several passages about hunting, and gruesome injuries, so do keep that in mind before picking up this book if you’re sensitive to that.
This is a difficult book to review in that there isn’t really any plot to the book. It’s more of a meandering journey through Beryl’s life, through Africa, and this is not a book to “race” through. You’ll miss so much of the beautiful writing if you try to read this quickly.
There is somewhat of a “controversy” regarding the authorship and authenticity of the book. In some copies of the book (my copy did not include it) there is a foreword that indicates that perhaps not everything is true, or at least to not believe everything you read. I have not read this foreword, and I am honestly a bit confused, as I didn’t find anything in the book to be so sensational as to be unbelievable. In regards to the authorship, some say that Beryl’s ex-husband wrote some of the book. This was a book club read for me, and most of my book club felt that the descriptive passages felt like a different author than the passages that were more “action oriented”. I honestly didn’t find this to be the case, and I have no reason to think that she didn’t write the book, or most of the book, and have no trouble believing what was written. I think I was the lone member of my book club to have this opinion however.
Several famous people at the time make appearances here, from big-game hunter Denys Finch Hatton, to Blix, Baron von Blixen Finecke, the ex-husband of Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa).
West With the Night was a different read. I can’t say that I truly liked it, as it was a bit too disjointed and all over the place in how it was told, but I really did love all of the descriptive passages about Africa. Some of this writing was just absolutely beautiful, and while there really wasn’t much plot here to make one feel any sense of urgency to read it, there is something here for readers who enjoy reading books about the beauty of Africa and the outdoors.
***This review first posted on my blog, luvtoread.***
5

June 14, 2017

Magical, endearing, poetic prose.
One of the best written biographies I have yet to encounter. Magical, endearing, poetic prose. It is a series of accounts of Beryl Markham growing up as the only white child in a section of East Africa, learning to train successfully race horses and then learning to fly. Only at the end does she reveal that the title is about one of her last famous flights - from England west to America which is far more difficult than east to west. She did not quite make it but was still well known for it especially as a woman pilot. She describes flying to find elephants for a hunter without apology and casually mentions her relationship with Tom Black. She describes difficulties in flying from Africa though Italian held territory (WWII would soon haunt the area.) She describes helping a horse give birth to a colt which was the first horse she would own. There are many other precious beautiful accounts in between. I can not recommend this more highly. I will give a copy to my DH and recommend to several book clubs.
4

April 29, 2015

Just one step from Greatness
I loved this book! It's an interesting biographical story of a really interesting woman who lived life on her own terms at a time when very few women did that. I knew it was going to be good when I saw a quote on the jacket from Ernest Hemingway saying that after reading her prose, he felt ashamed of his own. And her prose is excellent, so evocative you could just feel everything as she described it, such a pleasure to read. There are only a couple of minor criticisms I would have, that keep it from being one of the truely celebrated pieces of literature (in my mind). The ending of the book is pretty far removed from the scene of the climax (both literally and figuratively), it kind of felt like a jump cut... You wondered what happened after the climax, and how did she get to where she resumes the narrative. The second thing was that while she mentions several memorable male characters, she never discusses her personal romantic life at all in the book. I had to look her up on Wikipedia to learn that she had been married for a while, and which of the male characters she had had affairs with, and which ones she carried a love for, for the rest of her life. If that was in the book, this would have been a literary treasure. As it was, it was just a really great book. I also learned that several of the characters in the book were part of something in their East African area known as the Happy Valley Set which appears to have been a hedonistic free-for-all. I could see an entire book devoted to those scandals alone.
1

June 18, 2017

Too boring!
Boring! Couldn't finish! Her vocabulary and word structure is excellent. So well written but found the stories boring.
1

August 28, 2016

One Star
Was not what I expected. It was mostly about life in Africa Vs her flying career.
4

October 12, 2017

Surprisingly exciting!
This book was such a pleasant surprise! I didn't really know what to expect when I purchased it, the story seemed intriguing and I thought it would focus mostly on Markham's flying career. But it's mostly a beautiful tribute to her childhood and younger years in Africa, and though her flying career is mentioned towards the end, it does not make up the bulk of the book. The author has a lovely style of writing, it's very vivid and at times very witty. Her descriptions of the farm she grew up on, the animals she loved, and the people she lived among really give the reader clear pictures in the mind. Sometimes Africa receives a bad reputation for being always at war with itself, and for the corruption of some of the countries - but Markham shows the beauty of the continent, and the culture that is richly woven into her life where she is almost an outsider but yet still feels at home and accepted. Her life is fascinating in many ways, I wish the book had continued longer actually, I wanted to know what happened in her later years. Very enjoyable read!
1

April 17, 2018

Wordy
I don't care for writers who describe EVERY single object in their story in the finest detail. E.g., the sound of the wires in her plane due to the wind... and on and on and on.
1

June 29, 2016

Awful print quality.
Almost unreadable due to extremely poor print quality.
2

July 10, 2019

Photocopy Print
This book is likely a photocopy print. Not very high in quality. Very big margins.
5

September 8, 2019

An Extraordinary Life
A riveting autobiography. The rich descriptions of her childhood in Africa, the horses she trained, her introduction to flying, and experiences as a pilot, drew me in and kept my attention and desire to read on til the end. Also memorable were the characters, the parts they played in her life, and her relationships with them. I enjoyed the imagery she used and her use of language. I was impressed with the fluidity of her writing and her ability to weave bits of classic literature and ancient history into the story, giving it a reference in time and a relationship with universal truths and experiences. I found this especially impressive with consideration to her childhood upbringing as a young girl without a mother, in the early 1900’s, who mostly schooled herself on a her father’s farm in Africa.
5

March 10, 2019

A life in blue and gold
“… why am I sitting here dreaming of England? Why am I gazing at this campfire like a lost soul seeking a hope when all that I love is at my wingtips? Because I am curious. Because I am incorrigibly, now, a wanderer.” – from WEST WITH THE NIGHT, about staring into an African campfire and thinking of flying a return to England

“Blue-and-gold had been my racing colors; they are (my) flying colors now.” – from WEST WITH THE NIGHT

“In a sense it was formless. When the low stars shown over it and the moon clothed it in silver fog, it was the way firmament must have been when the waters had gone and the night of the Fifth Day had fallen on creatures still bewildered by the wonder of their being.” – from WEST WITH THE NIGHT, on the African landscape at night

“After the era of great pilots is gone … it will be found, I think, that all the science of flying has been captured in the breadth of an instrument board, but not the religion of it.” – from WEST WITH THE NIGHT

“If a man has any greatness in him, it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work.” – from WEST WITH THE NIGHT

First published in 1942, WEST WITH THE NIGHT is an autobiography written in the first person by Beryl Markham (née Clutterbuck, 1902-1986). Although there had been some controversy as to whether or not she was really the author, there is apparently sufficient evidence now known to indicate she truly was. That settled, let’s move on.

Born in England in 1902, her father, a horse trainer, took her to British East Africa (now essentially Kenya) at age 4 where she grew to adulthood and became a renowned horse trainer in her own right and a famed aviatrix. Markham was the name of her second husband (of three).

WEST WITH THE NIGHT is about (British East) Africa, dogs, horses, elephants, and flying.

The narrative also touches upon elephant hunting inasmuch as Beryl scouted the herds from the air reporting their location back to the Great White Hunters back in their camps. This fact alone would cause the politically correct to relegate WEST WITH THE NIGHT to the remainders bin along with Mark Twain’s THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN for its extensive use of the N-word. Suit yourself.

Discovering Beryl the writer was for me both fortuitous and welcome. Her love of Africa, nurtured while growing up without other White children to insulate her in a privileged bubble but forcing her to learn the language and hunting skills of the local indigenous tribe, shines as bright as her love of horse training and piloting. Her prose is capable of approaching the sublime.

The book concludes with Markham’s 1936 solo flight from England to North America, which made her the first woman to make that Atlantic non-stop crossing east to west. Thus, the title of the autobiography.
5

May 29, 2017

A remarkable book by a remarkable woman
This is a somewhat autobiographical novel by Beryl Markham, one of real life side characters in Isak Denison's novel "Out of Africa." She writes of her life in Africa, where her English father moved when she was four years old to buy land and run a huge farm, breed racing horses, and carve out a life in what to many is a strange, wonderful, and remarkable land. Beryl writes of the successes, struggles, and failures of running a farm in Africa, and relates the story of her life as she grows up and becomes a horse trainer and ultimately a bush pilot, culminating in her true life accomplishment of becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the American continent. Earnest Hemingway described her writing as "better than mine." While I think that's a stretch, she does have a wonderful ability to bring Africa in its colonial days to life in vivid and beautiful prose. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.
1

September 9, 2019

not much about flying
It was more about the fauna than flying. Surprisingly after 20 or so page was one complete page which stated " if you don't like this book you can obtain another one of our books"
1

March 13, 2019

Wouldn't purchase through MurfBooks
Purchased through MurfBooks. Wouldn’t purchase again.
1

March 11, 2019

Bad digital copy
Book opened at 58%, not the beginning. Couldn't even listen to it.
1

February 8, 2019

Slow read
Very slow read...a few chapters were interesting..otherwise not much of a story..much was left out about her life and who she was..
1

June 29, 2016

Buyer beware on audio books- not compatible despite info to the contrary
Before buying this through book ( And a second title too!) bub from Amazon as a digital download audio book, I was told I could listen to it on any device. But when I tried to download after purchase I'm told it's not compatible with my devices. I use an iPad mini.
2

August 19, 2019

paperback-horrible printing quality
0:000:00This video is not intended for all audiences. What date were you born?JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031201920182017201620152014201320122011201020092008200720062005200420032002200120001999199819971996199519941993199219911990198919881987198619851984198319821981198019791978197719761975197419731972197119701969196819671966196519641963196219611960195919581957195619551954195319521951195019491948194719461945194419431942194119401939193819371936193519341933193219311930192919281927192619251924192319221921192019191918191719161915191419131912191119101909190819071906190519041903190219011900SubmitAdobe Flash Player is required to watch this video.Install Flash Player This paperback book looks very wierd. I should have just gone for the kindle edition. blurry printing (cover &text). It looks like somethinn printed from a pdf in a home printer. With the super low quality I can't event tell if it is a real published book or not. I can't believe I paid 9 dollar on this…
2

August 9, 2019

Decent
Just a tough read. Stories were good just was not crazy.about the style. Seems to be a truly amazing woman i would.have loved to meet.
2

July 3, 2019

Woman who does it all
In the beginning learning about Africa was interesting. Her life as a child there; her life then with the horses. I enjoyed her recounting about her male friend becoming a man

However, when she tells about each and every flight, the book just drags into the bog like her plane. The 2nd half of her book should have been a few chapters.
2

November 21, 2018

Not compelling
Boring so far

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