Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “West with the Night” as Want to Read:
West with the Night
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

West with the Night

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  35,810 ratings  ·  3,549 reviews
The classic memoir of Africa, aviation, and adventure—the inspiration for Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun and “a bloody wonderful book” (Ernest Hemingway).

Beryl Markham’s life story is a true epic. Not only did she set records and break barriers as a pilot, she shattered societal expectations, threw herself into torrid love affairs, survived desperate crash landings—and c
Paperback, 294 pages
Published January 1st 1983 by North Point Press (first published 1942)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about West with the Night, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Karen H The book written by Beryl Markham is a much better read. Her writing is fantastic as she describes her many great adventures in her wonderful literary…moreThe book written by Beryl Markham is a much better read. Her writing is fantastic as she describes her many great adventures in her wonderful literary style.
Circling the sun is historic fiction and focuses more about her affairs. (less)
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. Ne…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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  35,810 ratings  ·  3,549 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of West with the Night
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aviation, africa, memoirs
”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 person to fly so
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
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kenya, non-fiction, travel
I do not read many autobiographies but when I do I seem to hit the jackpot. West with the Night is the memoir of amazing Beryl Markham. In case you did not know (I didn’t), she was the first solo person to fly the Atlantic from East to West.

Beryl was an English woman who grew up in Kenya together with his father on a farm. She was raised among Masai warriors, learned to hunt with a spear and to understand animals. Her first major passion were horses not flying. At 18 she was the first woman hor
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I feel honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to read this remarkable memoir. Beryl Markham’s story is outstanding enough by itself. What makes this memoir even more spectacular is the writing. On the cover is a quote from Ernest Hemingway: “[Markham] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers . . . It really is a bloody wonderful book.”

Never mind that when he wrote his comments in a letter to a friend the ellipsis contained some typically misogynistic and fo
"Africa was the breath and life of my childhood. It is still the host of all my darkest fears, the cradle of mysteries always intriguing, but never wholly solved. It is the remembrance of sunlight and green hills, cool water and the yellow warmth of bright mornings. It is as ruthless as any sea, more uncompromising than its own deserts. It is without temperance in its harshness or in its favours. It yields nothing, offering much to men of all races."

I cannot help but liken this alluring memoir t
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
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.

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

Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biografie
4,25 stars - English hardcover - I have dyslexia - What a lady, what an adventures in Kenya in the 20, 30-s. One of my favoutite lady's in history. When I was in the libary someone hand me a copy of this book. An older man. "I think you have to read this novel." And surely it was. 😀🦋🌹🌷 ...more
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, biography
Ernst Hemingway wrote that Beryl Markham could run rings around writers like him.I agree with that.There are some beautiful lines, e.g."I watched as an aeroplane invaded the stronghold of the stars."

Beryl Markham was one of the pioneers of aviation in Africa.She grew up in Kenya in the early 1900s and also had a career as a racehorse trainer.

Her most famous achievement was being the first person to fly the atlantic non stop from east to west.Such a journey required travelling against the Atlanti
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
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
Meredith Holley
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
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
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
I picked up this book as a prequel to reading Out of Africa by Karen Blixen but didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. What a life Beryl Markham had! She didn't seem to have much fear. I had to do some outside research to determine why her mother left her in Africa with her father at age 4 and which other friends mentioned were thought to be lovers as those aspects of her life weren't covered in the book. It wasn't very long but the writing style had me wanting more. ...more

Mahadma Ghandi said: Live as though you'll die tomorrow, but learn as though you'll live forever.

After many years I have finaly read this book. And what a joyous experience it was. Reading the author's own thoughts on the big events in her life, reminded me of reading the thoughts of Plato in his The Republic. Written so many thousands of years ago, The Republic still accommodates the spirit and mindset of one of the most influential people of all times. By reading his words, we can still hear a
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
So many thoughts flashed through my mind. Would my strength hold out long enough to save Buller from the tusks of the boar? What had become of Arab Maina, and why had I ever left him? How would poor Kosky get home? Would he bleed too badly on the way?

I ran on and on, following the barely audible bark of Buller, and the few drops of blood clinging at intervals to the stalks of grass or soaking into the absorbent earth. It was either Buller's blood or the warthog's. Most likely it was both.

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
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
Judith E
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
This is a companion piece to Isak Dinesen’s, Out of Africa, a love story of 1930 British East Africa, and beautiful descriptive writing whether Markham is in the jungle, on a safari, or flying her beloved airplane.

Plenty of adventure abounds in this nearly unspoiled Africa where Markham had an unconventional upbringing. Her strong, intelligent, and independent personality allowed her to accept this gift of Africa and appreciate it’s potential and beauty.

Her gift of writing shines through her s
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
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
Connie G
"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
May 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.45 stars. This was a book I could have done without. One of those books that after a point knew I was too far into it to do a DNF, so just wanted to get it over with. ☹

Beryl Markham certainly had an interesting childhood. Her father was a white settler in Kenya and he raised his daughter there. She was attacked by a lion when she was apparently a little girl. She, as a teenager, groomed horses…her father at that time was training race horses. She then became a celebrated racehorse trainer. The
This is unequivocally the finest, most exquisitely written, engrossing memoir I’ve ever read. One particular chapter, entitled ‘Royal Exile’ and written mostly in the voice of a moody thoroughbred horse named Camciscan, left me gaping and teary with emotion. A later chapter about a race between an underdog filly named Wise Child and a stallion named Wrack did the same. Powerful, magnificent writing. I did not particularly enjoy the elephant hunting chapter, but safaris were part of Africa’s hist ...more
Apr 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I loved this book the first time around. This time I am listening to it with Simon. I was looking for inspiration and came across this title in Overdrive through our Public Library. Instantly, I knew this was the right choice. One of our favorite movies is, "Out of Africa" and one of Simon's heroes is Amelia Earhart. So, a book that combines aviation and Africa seems just the ticket.

Update 5/31/2020: This evening, while rummaging in my kitchen drawers, I found my note of two quotes that had grab
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Straight on Till Morning: A Biography of Beryl Markham
  • Circling the Sun
  • Out of Africa
  • Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton
  • Out of Africa / Shadows on the Grass
  • The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood
  • Wind, Sand and Stars
  • Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
  • The Diary of a Single Parent Abroad
  • Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller
  • The Lincoln Highway
  • 长安的荔枝
  • Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body
  • Fiskerne
  • Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight
  • Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple
  • PSYCH-K... The Missing Piece/Peace In Your Life
  • Let's Talk: ...About Making Your Life Exciting, Easier, And Exceptional
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people love books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts through...
32 likes · 0 comments
“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.” 1967 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.” 349 likes
More quotes…