Skip to main content

What's in a Name challenge review #3: West With the Night

Have you read this book? Why not leave a comment to tell me how you liked it 😊

What's in a name challenge category: Compass direction.

Author: Beryl Markham.
Genre: Memoir.
Originally published: 1942.

Beryl Markham was a remarkable woman. She grew up on a farm in Kenya and learnt to train racehorses from her father, working at that profession intermittently throughout her life and becoming a respected trainer. She also learnt to fly and worked as a bush pilot in Africa and was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean by airplane from east to west.

West With the Night is a memoir about her life from childhood until after her record-setting flight, but could not be called a biography, because she only touches down here and there in her life and leaves much unsaid and unexplained.

The writing is lovely, flowing, graceful and poetic, with a strong sense of nostalgia. The text gives an interesting insight into the lives of white expatriates in Kenya in the first four decades of the 20th century. Anyone who has read Karen Blixen's Out of Africa will recognise some of the people mentioned, such as Denys Finch Hatton and Bror Blixen, both of whom were, apparently, her lovers. There's also a brief mention of Karen herself, but the few other women who are mentioned in the book are only briefly named and one gets the impression that Beryl was not overly fond of any of them except for one who was good to her as a child. I'm keeping this one, as I think I might want to reread it at some point.

After reading the book I became curious to learn more about Beryl Markham and found out how, after fading into obscurity, the book was rediscovered in the 1980s by a man who read a very complimentary passage in one of Ernest Hemingway's letters that described Markham's writing in glowing terms - and Markham herself as "very unpleasant". The book was republished, and the income from it improved Markham's financial situation so that she was able to spend the short time she lad left of her life in comfort after years of financial struggles.

The more I read about her, the more I have become convinced that she probably was somewhat unlikeable - being self-centered and full of a sense of entitlement - but she was also admirable because she clearly did not let herself be bound by what women were expected to be and behave like in her time and place, which may in part explain why she was considered unpleasant.Women who behave like men often are. I'm putting her biography on my TBR list - it just remains to be seen which of the two I will end up reading, Errol Trzebinski's 1993 book, The Lives of Beryl Markham, or Mary S. Lovell's 1987 one, Straight On Till Morning.

More information:


Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme