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West with the Night

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  24,294 Ratings  ·  2,486 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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Tori Montes She had an affair with a Naval officer and left when Beryl was 5. She did return years later with Beryl's two half brothers after her husband died.…moreShe had an affair with a Naval officer and left when Beryl was 5. She did return years later with Beryl's two half brothers after her husband died. Never a close relationship if you can imagine(less)
Janice Kohl Read Sara Wheeler's Intro to her story. What is the definition of a Memoir anyway?

Community Reviews

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Ian
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, africa, aviation
”Being alone in an aeroplane for even a short a time as a night and a day, irrevocably alone, with nothing to observe but your instruments and your own hands in semi-darkness, nothing to contemplate but the size of your small courage, nothing to wonder about but the beliefs, the faces, and the hopes rooted in your mind---such an experience can be as startling as the first awareness of a stranger walking by your side at night. You are the stranger.”

 photo beryl-markham_zpsd5o6r66c.jpg

Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly solo o
...more
Michael
I was very pleasantly surprised at the magical prose and window into worlds of East Africa provided by this memoir. Markham is an interesting historical figure for her achievements in aviation and adventuring. For example, she was the first female bush pilot in the continent, the first woman to complete an East-to-West nonstop crossing of the Atlantic (ending into a near-crash landing in Cape Breton), and a legendary race horse trainer. And she was a bit of a celebrity among the glitterati that ...more
Diane
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir was so lovingly written that I'm going to have to reread it to fully appreciate it.

Beryl Markham was born in England but moved to Kenya with her family when she was 4. She has amazing stories about surviving a lion attack, becoming a bush pilot, training racehorses, and flying solo across the Atlantic -- and she flew the difficult way, from east to west, against the wind. She is my favorite kind of woman to read about: she's tough and adventurous, but also romantic and sentimental.

I
...more
Carol
4.5 Stars After reading Paula McLain's Circling The Sun I could not wait to read more about the adventurous life of Beryl Markham.

Growing up in Kenya, this amazing and fearless lady was not only a wild animal hunter, horse trainer and accomplished pilot, she was also a great story teller and writer (IMHO) as evidenced in West With The Night.

Skinning animals, running with the native hunting parties for wild boar, surviving a baboon attack in her room and a near death encounter with a lion are onl

...more
Hana
2014: 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.

2017: So, I did read it again and, as Ernest Hemingway said, "I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book." For one thing, unlike some of Hemingway's
...more
Jennifer
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love strong women, those who love the written word
“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 blemish of an axe. You know then what you had always been told -- that the world once lived and grew without adding machines and newsprint and brick-walled streets and the tyranny of clocks.”

You can be assured that this review will in no way be as well written as Beryl Markham's "West with t
...more
Hannah
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Meredith Holley
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Jeannette Walls
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
Jim
Beryl Markham was an amazing woman, raised in Africa by her father after her mother tired of bush life and bolted back to England with Beryl's brother. Without any womanly interference, Charles Clutterbuck was able to let his daughter get a proper education in the Kenyan bush, tearing around the countryside barefoot and toting a spear, hunting with the nearby Nandi people. Hers was the world of hunting and horses with the odd bit of bookwork thrown in. Beryl clearly worshipped her father, and th ...more
Dianne
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
This is the fourth book I've read on my Beryl Markham-related splurge, which started with Paula McLain's historical fiction "Circling the Sun," which is based on Beryl's life. "West With the Night" is Beryl's own memoir of her early life, told in chunks from childhood to her historic flight from Africa to Nova Scotia in 1936.

Really good - interesting and very well written. I admire her pluck more than I did before.

There is some controversy around this book, with some believing it was actually wr
...more
BrokenTune
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"I stumble out of the plane and sink to my knees in muck and stand there foolishly staring, not at the lifeless land, but at my watch. Twenty-one hours and twenty-five minutes. Atlantic flight. Abingdon, England, to a nameless swamp – nonstop."

It is probably sacrilege to have read West with the Night and not to have loved it more.

To be fair, when I read the book I could hardly put it down. It was a charmingly written memoir of what must have been an extraordinarily interesting person. Beryl M
...more
Connie
"West with the Night" is the memoir of a woman who loved adventure. Beryl Markham spent most of her childhood in British East Africa (Kenya) where her father owned a horse farm. She grew up playing with the native African children, spending her time playing games and learning to hunt with the young boys rather than making friends with the native girls. As an adult she became a horse trainer and a pilot. Beryl Markham is most famous for being the first woman to pilot a plane from east to west acr ...more
Suzy
What an exhilarating read/listen! In 1942, Beryl Markham wrote this memoir of her early years up through her historic 1936 flight across the Atlantic from London to North America. To me this was less of an autobiography or memoir and more of a recollection of her adventures growing up in Africa, hunting with the local tribes in British East Africa (later Kenya), training horses first with her father and then professionally, and learning to fly and becoming the first person to fly solo east acros ...more
Elizabeth
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kavita
What a wonderful and eventful life! Whether Beryl herself wrote the memoir or not, it hardly makes a dent in the kind of pride I have in her as a woman clearing the way for other women to come after her. Ernest Hemingway called her a 'high-grade bitch'. I wonder if he knew that a century later, this would reflect more on him than on her?

So Beryl's life in a nutshell: She moved to Kenya at the age of four and grew up in a farm. She became the first licensed female horse breeder in the world! She
...more
Diane Barnes
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a woman, what a story! Beryl Markham spent her life doing just as she pleased, damn society, damn propriety, damn it all. A childhood running free with the African natives, learning to hunt and survive; then becoming the first woman horse trainer in Kenya, and being successful; then learning to fly when aviation was in it's infancy, and making a living at it as one of the first women aviators. Not to mention being the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from East to West in 1936. T ...more
Jeanette
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 star and the first two/thirds was a 5. To me it only lost perfection in the continuity of the last quarter after she left Molo and the subsequent years until she returned to Scotland.

OUTSTANDING and perfectly worded to nuance, beauty, dichotomies, dirt to mountain top reality of her East Anglican Africa (now Kenya farmland /plain prime) of the 1910's, 1920's and early 1930's. Rarely, rarely do you read this depth for physical base fact tied sublimely to the artistic judgment supreme- and not
...more
William1
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
☮Karen
3.5 stars

After reading about Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun and giving it 5 stars, I'd heard this memoir was even better. Is truth better than fiction, I wondered.

Her memories flowed like sweet wine and many were familiar from reading the other book. The writing is lovely; impressive. But some of the early chapters dragged. It consistently put me to sleep, often right after making me think how perfect the word choices were. I suspect for me at least some of the story got lost amid the beauty
...more
Lisa Nelson
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mayda
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adventure, memoir
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
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
...more
Laura
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Lady Alice
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
Mitticus
3.75



We swung over the hills and over the town and back again, and I saw how a man can be master of a craft, and how a craft can be master of an element. I saw the alchemy of perspective reduce my world, and all my other life, to grains in a cup. I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine. And I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know — that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it. These I learned at once. But most things came
...more
Book Concierge
UPDATED April 2017, after listening to the audio.

Audio book narrated by Julie Harris

Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic, from England to North America. This is her memoir.

Much of the book chronicles her childhood and young adulthood in Kenya. Although she was married three times, not a single husband is mentioned, but she does speak of several of the men who were important to her: Tom Black (who taught her to fly), Denys Finch Hatton (with whom she had
...more
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
...more
Ebookwormy1
Mar 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Linda
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Normally a work of fiction usually wins it for me, with the exception of West With the Night, an autobiography by Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly the Atlantic from east to west. Written in her own style, which was excellent prose to me....she makes Africa come alive with her language and sense of Africa. Most of the book was about her flying career, with a portion about her childhood and growing up in Africa...which by no stretch of the imagination was it a normal one. Two quotes that I lo ...more
Dane Huckelbridge
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beryl Markham wrote so well she made Hemingway jealous, and in this immaculately wrought memoir, you can see why. Truly gorgeous writing, about the daily travails of a bush pilot in East Africa. I'm certainly no pilot, but this and Salter's "The Hunters" are probably two of the best books on aviation around. Top-notch, really. Markham deserves to be counted amount the best writers of her generation.
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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
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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.” 1651 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.” 303 likes
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