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West with the Night

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  12,817 ratings  ·  1,222 reviews
West with the Night is the story of Beryl Markham--aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty--and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and '30s.
Paperback, 294 pages
Published January 1st 1983 by North Point Press (first published 1942)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ian
This letter from Ernest Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins in 1942 sums up the book better than I ever could:

"Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West with the Night? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished
...more
Hannah
Embarrassment of Riches:
(noun; idiomatic) An abundance or overabundance of something; too much of a good thing.

The above perfectly encapsulates my experience of re-reading Beryl Markham's stunning memoir. The only caveat I'd make is that the last part of the definition makes it sound like a bad thing, when in reality the plethora of descriptive and evocative prose to be found within the 294 pages of this book are about as close to reading nirvana as a I am likely to find in my lifetime.

There ar
...more
Sparrow
Beryl Markham is someone who you would want to meet and study, I think. This story is nuts, but at the same time, it lacks the pull of human relationships that generally carry me through a story. People obviously read for different reasons, but for me it is relationships that pull me through a story – not necessarily romantic relationships, you understand, but the way people interact. Will they be friends? Will they fall in love? Will they betray each other? There is none of that in this book, s ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
The order of some of the chapters is somewhat puzzling. I can only guess that she chose what she considered the most memorable events/periods in her life and wrote a chapter about each.
Some of the chapters were way more exciting than others. But overall the writing is quite impressive, considering she wasn't a professional writer. Things were so different in the time she wrote about! Everything was so new----automobiles, airplanes, telephones.

Beryl Markham grew up in British East Africa (now K
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Elizabeth
The following passage is an example of why I loved this book.

A messenger came from the farm with a story to tell. It was not a story that meant much as stories went in those days. It was about how the war progressed in German East Africa and about a tall young man who was killed in it.

I suppose he was no taller than most who were killed there and no better. It was an ordinary story, but Kibii and I, who knew him well, thought there was no story like it, or one as sad, and we think so now.

The yo
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Elizabeth
Reading Markham is like a breath of fresh air. The world of training horses, Africa and airplanes is so deliciously foreign to me, I could have read 500 more pages. I found the writer to be undeniably feminine yet no-nonsense.

I would recommend this book to all my free spirited friends.
Lisa Nelson
I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and was putting off writing this review. I was unsure why, but then realized that somehow writing the review here is the final closing of the book for me. If I didn't write it down I could still hold on to the author Beryl Markham and her remarkable stories a little longer. Since this book I read another short book and am now well into another novel so I decided that with a heavy heart that I could finally put, "West with the Night" to sleep.

This book h
...more
Laura
Just arrived from UK through BM.

Page 135:
"When you flight, you get a feeling of possession that you couldn't have if you owned all of Africa. You feel that everything you see belongs to you - all the pieces are put together, and the whole is yours; not that you want it, but because, when you're alone in a plane, there's no one to hare it. It's there and it's yours. It makes you feel bigger than you are - closer to being something you've sensed you might be capable of, but never had the courage t
...more
Ebookwormy
This book was a good read, and a good companion to Out of Africa. However, two things struck me as strange with this work. #1 I felt much as I did with Out of Africa that the author really wasn't telling me the entire story, and #2, I kept having to remind myself that the main character was a woman as, while eloquently written, it didn't seem I was reading a feminine perspective.

So.... as I did with Out of Africa, I checked out a biography and (thankfully) got a good one, Errol Trzebinski's "Th
...more
Joje
This is a fine read for the heroine and her adventurous life, and in general I do appreciate her style and the choice of internal depth throughout. Let me say as much at the start.

I must say that about half way through I began to have mixed feelings, like Jeanette, about the style, especially about the long elegiac passages that often worked but sometimes did not, at least not for me. I was not hampered then by the feeling of what happens next, quite the contrary, but rather by the creeping ove
...more
Judy
Now that I've read this book, I understand the enthusiasm for it. What more could you ask for than beautiful writing, a compelling story (true at that), daring exploits all by a spunky lady?
Mayda
I am sure that this book appealed to many readers, including the late Ernest Hemingway, but, alas, I am not in that number. I found that the writing, though descriptive, was disjointed and dated. I know Africa was a rough place in the 1930s, but surely there were some things she could have written about that did not involve hunting and killing and whipping horses to train them. I found it amazing that she knew in great detail exactly what her horse was thinking as he dealt with her as a young gi ...more
Kenny
Feb 20, 2008 Kenny rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: biography
As a pilot and a traveler to Africa myself, I read this book with interest. I was prepared for an exciting travelogue concerning subjects with which I had some commerce. What I was not prepared for was the prose, which flowed like a great river: powerful, subtle, perfectly apt, and remarkably unselfconscious, to wit:

"Africa is never the same to anyone who leaves it and returns again. It is not a land of change, but it is a land of moods and its moods are numberless. It is not fickle, but because
...more
Betsy
First of all, I don't give a damn about authorship. Why would someone else write something so well done and never get any credit for it. Perhaps Beryl had some coaching, but these are unquestionably her stories and they're terrific. I was most drawn in by her first stories about hunting wild boar and close encounters with lions. The elephant safari hunts had me grinding my teeth - different time and perspective, I guess. I found it interesting that Beryl never delved much into family or her love ...more
William
Naturally, when it comes to 1930s African memoirs we first think of the Baroness von Blixen-Finecke's Out of Africa and her stories. Both women have created exceptional works and the one by Beryl Markham (or is it by her husband Raoul Schumacher?) stands the comparison very well. In fact, at least in this work, she seems the writer with the sharper, leaner diction. She also possesses a sense of humor you will never find in such abundance in Dinesen, who works from a far darker palette. Markham's ...more
Stacy
Beryl Markham was raised by her father in what was then known as British East Africa. As a child, she learned Swahili and went hunting with the Masai people who were her friends. Later, she became a race horse trainer, a pilot, and the first person to fly across the Atlantic from England. She is a very good writer, in fact, and this memoir was widely praised by Ernest Hemingway.

I feel that the reason Markham's book has been nearly forgotten while her friend and contemporary Karen Blixen's book "
...more
Judy
Jun 27, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir

A friend lent me this memoir with the recommendation "this book has been loved, very." Well, I loved it as well. Beryl Markham was a woman who lived large and refused any attempt to mold her.

She was born in England in 1902 but was taken to Kenya by her father when she was four. These were the years when the British East Africa Company had colonized both Kenya and Uganda (according to wikipedia), bringing along British settlers who mainly farmed. Beryl was raised by her father, learning to run wi
...more
Elizabeth
Apr 19, 2011 Elizabeth added it
Shelves: flying
Someone in our book group commented, "This makes me feel like I live such a boring life." Also, it makes me feel like I don't work nearly hard enough.

I remember my college roommate carrying this book around in the mid-1980s when she was taking flying lessons, and I was intrigued by it, but I have never read it. 25 years later, having seen Mombasa and Voi and the Rift Valley myself from the cockpit of a small plane, with a pilot's license in hand and several books about Africa behind me, having r
...more
Mike
Jun 15, 2009 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: impala, wildebeest, or zebra
This 1942 memoir recounts the author's adventures growing up in British East Africa — she was attacked by a Lion! — she carried a spear and hunted with the natives! — as well as tales from her later careers in colonial Africa as a horse trainer and then bush pilot. However impressive it is that she, a woman, carried on such extraordinary adventures, our narrator forges her identity from the residue of her actions and not the accident of her birth.

For Markham Africa is primal and undefined. Accor
...more
Trish
I've read this book a couple of times and each time it is so absorbing that I just carry on as though I've never seen it before. Surely that has to be one mark of a great writer.
awesomatik.com

Egal, was du bisher so gemacht hast. Die Wahrscheinlichkeit ist groß, dass dein Leben um einiges langweiliger war und ist als das von Beryl Markham.
Sie ist wohl eine der unbekanntesten und doch faszinierendsten Frauen des vergangenen Jahrhunderts. Aufgewachsen in Kenia (damals Britisch- Ostafrika) bewegte sie sich meist barfuß auf der Farm ihres alleinerziehenden Vaters zwischen exotischen Tieren und Zuchtpferden. Bevor sie Englisch lernte, sprach sie Swahili.
Sie wurde u.a. von einem Löwen angef
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Stephen
“As the herd [impala, wildebeest, zebra:] moved it became a carpet of rust-brown and grey and dull red. It was not like a herd of cattle or of sheep because it was wild, and it carried with it the stamp of wilderness and the freedom of a land still more a possession of Nature than of men. To see ten thousand animals untamed and not branded with the symbols of human commerce is like scaling an unconquered mountain for the first time, or like finding a forest without roads or footpaths, or the ble ...more
Eric_W
Beryl Markham was an extraordinary lady. She could train race horses to perfection, track lions and elephants, and speak Swahili with the natives. She was the first person to fly the Atlantic solo westbound. She was also an extraordinary writer.
Her autobiography, West With The Night is one of the best books I have listened to in a long time. The cassette version is ably read by Julie Harris. Several of the passages were so striking that we listened to them more than once. I particularly like th
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 24, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List
The book is a memoir by Beryl Markham, a pioneering record-breaking aviator and horse-trainer. Born in 1902, she came to Kenya when she was around four-years-old and grew up there, and the book covers the years from that childhood to her record-making crossing of the Atlantic in 1936. Her prose in this book was absolutely, utterly beautiful. Don't trust my judgement? Well, maybe you'll take Ernest Hemingway's word for it:

Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West With The Night?... As it is, she ha
...more
S.B.
Oy, the colonization of Africa. It was kind of difficult to overlook just for the sake of the story. The story (or the memoir, I guess) is amazing, admirable, but at the same time diminished. At least with Markham you get a bare minimum of sentimentality and the privileged-white-woman-in-Africa type of 'wisdom.'

It's odd how Markham is the only woman among a string of men in this whole book (a one sentence mention doesn't count.) It makes me think she harbors that regrettable contempt that very s
...more
Sharon
I read this book about ten years ago. A friend has just recently reminded me of it and I've been thinking about it ever since. It's one of the most remarkable books I've ever read. The writing was absolutely wonderful. She had me fascinated and fully engaged on every page, just as if she were actually reliving her life with every word. If you love horses or aviation or are interested in the British presence in Kenya, or if you just
simply love a well written tale of an exciting, but true, life,
...more
Bookguide
Read in Dutch: 'De nacht achterna: vlucht over Afrika'.

While other women of her time and class were drinking tea and G&T at the expat clubs in Nairobi, waited on by the natives, or living a life of boredom and hardship on isolated farms, Beryl Markham was making herself quite a different life. After a childhood in Africa in which she avoided schoolwork to sneak off with her local friends, learning to track and hunt with bow and arrows, she became a racehorse trainer for her father, then afte
...more
Linda
Oct 29, 2009 Linda added it
Well, I don't think I will be as prolific as Laura B. or as gifted a writer as Laura M. - but here goes.

Once in a very long while, you come across a book, that you know will stay in your heart forever. This is one of them. I knew after reading the first two paragraphs that this book was a rare wonderful treat. Like an imported Cadbury chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth, silky and smooth, with a lingering taste that begs for more.

West with the Night - even the title is poetic - was writte
...more
Jan C
When I first read this book I loved it. And I could have sworn I could tell which parts had been writeen by Beryl Markham (a legend in her own time and mind) and which by her husband, whose name currently escapes me.

It was so beautifully written, I was positive that only a pilot could have written so well about the early days of flight.

For people who want to hold on to these dreams, do not read a biograph of Beryl. I'm not certain that she wrote any of it.

Of course, that does not detract from h
...more
Hana
Oh, I am so very tempted to read this one again....Shall I do another book about flying? Another book about Kenya? So soon? *sigh* I probably will give in to temptation because I loved this book beyond measure when I read it as a teenager and Hannah and Jeannette both confirmed my memory of how good it was.
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500 Great Books B...: West with the Night - Beryl Markham 1 3 Jul 23, 2014 09:56PM  
Memoirs and Biogr...: Memories of East Africa 1 8 Jun 20, 2014 11:21AM  
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Born in England, Beryl (Clutterbuck) Markham moved to a farm near the Great Rift Valley in Kenya (then British East Africa) with her family when she was four years old. She spent an adventurous childhood among native Africans and became the first licensed female horse trainer in Kenya.

She continued to be a non-conformist and trailblazer in both her professional and personal lives, marrying several
...more
More about Beryl Markham...
The Splendid Outcast: Beryl Markham's African Stories The Good Lion West with the night: And related readings (Literature connections) Cairo Men in the Air: The Best Flight Stories of All Time From Greek Mythology to the Space Age

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“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.” 991 likes
“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.” 201 likes
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