Wednesday, July 15, 2009

West With The Night

Author: Beryl Markham

This is a remarkably well-written, fascinating, engaging and absolutely enchanting memoir. Beryl grew up on a farm (a tremendously large farm) in the heart of British East Africa. From the native Marundi she learns to steal silently through the forest and hunt with only a spear. From her father she learns to train race horses - and does so spectacularly. And from a random stranger met on the road she learns the taste and feel and desire to fly.

And so she flies. From mail deliveryman to African bush pilot to elephant saf
ari scout, flying all over East Africa and then across its vast deserts and wastelands to London and finally - west across the Atlantic. I hadn't any idea that Beryl Markham was the first (man or woman) to cross the Atlantic - England to Cape Breton - alone.

But it's not just the amazing incredible life she's led that makes this memoir so captivating - it's her turn of phrase, her choice of verb and phrase. The words themselves literally draw you in and give pause. She's funny, witty, pensive, frank, practical and gives stunningly accurate descriptions of human character.

One of my favorite lines of the book comes very near the end: "Flight is but momentary escape from the eternal custody of earth." And so to Hemingway's high praise ("As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer...But [she:] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers."), I'll add my own.

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