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am 25. Juni 2000
I wasn't reading about Beryl Markham when I first learned of West With the Night. I was reading about Hemingway, a writer who is much better known and more admired than Markham, but to my way of thinking, with little reason. Apparently, Hemingway so admired this book that he was moved to the point of shame to know that he too was called a writer.
Stunningly evocative of life in East Africa in the early part of the 20th Century, West With the Night carries the reader directly into Markham's life. If there was a person lucky enough to have truly lived more than Markham lived, we might in fact have to turn to Hemingway to find him. Having broken all stereotypes before they were known as stereotypes, Markham did 80 years ago what few women today would even imagine. Raised by her widower father, Markham was the only white child within 200 miles in any direction. Under the tutelage of native hunters, she learned to face down lions and elephants, and went on to become a professional horse trainer. But flying was her true calling. Learning the geography of the cockpit from no less an instructor than Tom Black, one of England's best-known bush pilots and an aviator who is still revered, Markham soon became the only woman pilot in East Africa, delivering everything from the mundane (gin for the white hunters) to the life-saving (tanks of oxygen for malaria victims).
Throughout the book, we are treated to some of the most vivid descriptions of an Africa that is long gone. Curiously missing, however, is any sense of her love interests as she grew and matured. We come close when we learn of her affection for Tom Black, but the affection feels brotherly in nature. And, then again, when she partakes of a transcontinental adventure with the dashing Baron von Blixen---one of the legendary characters of colonial Africa--we're never certain if passion played a part. Perhaps the absence of a love interest is a reflection of the more genteel times in which the book was written, or perhaps her true love was Africa and the sense of being truly alive that such a place seems to have imparted to every day of Beryl Markham's life.
But in fact, Markham is still alive--in a way. You cannot help but sense her presence after the first chapter. West With the Night is that good.
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am 13. März 2000
Historic, personal, and romantic tales of a female pioneer in aviation fill the pages of West with the Night. It is beautifully written, poetry put into chapters to tell of the adventures of the developing African frontier. The book follows the life of the Beryl Markham, the author, giving the reader a view into the lives of her native friends, the small social world of the British settlers, and a young girl growing up as the result of the integrating cultures. She is, herself, both fresh and new, one of the first to develop a mindset of blended customs. Besides observing the profits of the British cultural invasion of East Africa, the reader is, all the while, taken on a non-stop ride of African adventures. Like a child, pulling anxiously at your hand, sprinting onward toward further exploration, Markham speeds us through dangers ranging from leopards to the risks of early flight in an unmapped land. It is a mind-boggling world of naturally flowing chaos, deep thought, admiral respect, and truly amazing people, entirly unimaginable to the modern American. Markham has seen it like no one before her and few after, and when she puts it to paper, the reader can see directly into her heart. A must read.
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am 16. Juni 2000
Since the day I finished this book I have searched in vain for something to read that came even close to matching its incredible beauty. This book is a gem -- moving, spiritual, thought provoking. It encompasses a spirit, an era, a place in language that rivals some of the greatest literary works of our time. Markam's prose is poetry, music. And her words manage to bypass the sentimentality that has plagued many a book about africa. What a shame we have only this one book by this wonderful, adventurous and eloquent woman.
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am 24. Mai 2000
I was talking about Africa one day, and one of my younger friends who had just completed college, recommended this book. I looked for the book because my friend is not given to reading, and the fact that she was impressed told me it might be an interesting book. I liked the book so much, I bought a "talking" version for my older aunt who has lost much of her vision and cannot read. She loved the book too. From this sample of three women, I can tell you this book will appeal to all ages.
Beryl Markham neglects many aspects of her colorful life, the story briefly covers her child hood in Africa and then mostly focuses on her wonderful flight, actually harder than Lindbergh's flight since she flew East to West, Europe to North America, against the jet stream. The description of the flight is thrilling up til the last when she crash lands--in North America.
If you want to know more about Beryl and her escapades, read "Out of Isak Dinesen, Karn Blixon's Untold Story" by Linda Donelson. Beryl knew Blixon (17 years her senior, and a mentor at some points) and Denis Finch Hatton. Also, the wonderful BBC film "Heat of the Sun" contains a character played by Susannah Harker (an avatrix) loosely based on Beryl Markham.
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am 30. August 1998
I visited Kenya last year and saw this book all over the shelves, and I picked it up. Little did I know, I was picking up one of the best written and most evocative books of all time. I was swept away immediatly by her involving narrative and descriptions. And let me tell you, the descriptions capture the Kenyan landscape and people remarkably well. It is just as wonderful and mysterious as Markham writes. This book transported me to the dazzling age of the 1920's and 30's in Kenya--which is full of fascinating trailblazers. I read a lot of the novel outloud, and her thoughts seemed to become my thoughts. Her anecdotes and experiences are so poignant that they seem to shoot me right through the heart. I want to reread this novel again and again, it is wonderous. Hemingway was right when he said " it is a bloody wonderful book." If you like Markham, you should read Isak Dineson's classic Out of Africa. However, Markham does more soul-searching and delving into herself than Dineson does. You'll recognize some familiar charactars as well. Both are true stories!
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am 16. Juni 1999
The book had events of great interest, however, Beryl did not express other aspects of her life that a reader might want to know. She never mentioned anything about her mother, who was she, etc. Also, although her life was interesting, I began to loose interest and the book became quite tedious to read at times. In addition to this, I found several points about her life that were confusing and seemingly contradictory. I have read many autobiographies that are better than this.
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am 5. Januar 2000
I picked this up in a garage sale, purely on the strength of the cover picture - it seemed like that face had seen and done a lot - which turns out to be absolutely true! More like poetry than prose, some of her descriptive passages have to be read more than once, just to let the feelings soak into your system. Ms Markham's early life is told in a matter-of-fact way, which takes it for granted that, when at 17, your father decides to leave Africa for Peru, you jump on your horse and head North, with no food, one change of underwear, little education, but a deep knowledge of horses and expect to land on your feet. Which is exactly what she does, co-incidentally meeting many yet-to-be-famous people on the way. Hunter; horse-trainer; aeronaut; most people would be happy to excel in any one of these professions, but Beryl does it all with surpassing ease. Her style is self-effacing and matter-of-fact; you would imagine that being 'moderately eaten' by a lion would warrant more than a couple of paragraphs, but it only gets included here, I suspect, on the strength of Bishon Singh's wonderful rhetoric in describing the event. She also has a knack of striking up instant and longlasting relationships with people from every race, creed and social status - I don't believe she even saw those differences; be he a Murani warrior or a colonial Governor, they both get treated to the same open-minded friendship. A book to read & read again.
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"Westwärts mit der Nacht" ist der faszinierende Lebensbericht einer außergewöhnlichen Frau, die den größten Teil ihres Lebens in Afrika verbracht hat, die versessen war auf die Elefantenjagt und aufs Fliegen. Beryl Markham war 1906 als vierjähriges Mädchen mit ihrem Vater nach Kenia gekommen. Als junge Frau setzte sie sich rasch über die gesellschaftlichen Konversationen hinweg: Sie begeisterte sich für die Buschfliegerei und zählte zu den wenigen weiblichen Flugpionieren der Zeit. Mutig und entschlossen kämpfte sie um Anerkennung. Dabei erwarb sie den Ruf einer Circe, der es auf wundersame Weise gelang, in die Männergesellschaft des kolonialen Kenia einzudringen und von ihr akzeptiert zu werden. Wie Tania Blixen ("Jenseits von Afrika") entführt Beryl Markham ihre Leser in die Weite und unvergleichliche Schönheit des kenianischen Hochlandes. Ebenso beeindruckend schildert sie die exotische Welt der Kikujus und stolzen Umnik Massai und das prachtvolle Leben der englischen Kolonialgesellschaft.
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am 30. Dezember 1998
If you enjoy reading for the exhilaration of exploring native language, as one might walk a familiar neighborhood with a keener eye, this might be a good choice. Should she have been more lyrical in her description of such fantatastic events as occurred within the passages of West With the Night an indictment of attempted poesy could conceivably be passed down. As it stands the book is a wonderful experiential recollection of the first woman freelance flyer in 1930's British Equatorial East Africa. It is at times quaint and irritating in its provincial British colonial tone but this lends credibility even more to the feeling that one is reading "the real thing".
*fnote- Finished reading the book on the fantail of a Norwegian Cruise Liner in the Caribbean in December of '98... This may have influenced the above review.
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am 4. November 1996
This is a great book, no doubt about it. Reading it made my so curious about its author that I read a biography of Beryl Markham (Errol Trzebinski's "The Lives of Beryl Markham"). There I found out that Beryl Markham did not write West With the Night at all but her 3rd husband, the ghostwriter Raoul Schuhmacher.
I found this very interesting and it didn't change my mind about West With the Night, just maybe about Markham. And I don't want to spoil it for anybody here! Beryl Markham was an extraordinary woman who lived exclusively by her own standards. Maybe knowing that she did not write "her" book will make you want to know more about her.
I just think Raoul Schuhmacher should get some recognition for turning his wife's stories into a work of art.
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