West with the Night
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-Exupery, 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.
Beryl Markham (1902-1986) was a British-born Kenyan aviatrix, adventurer, and racehorse trainer.
Sara Wheeler is the author of, most recently, "The Magnetic North "and "Access All Areas."