Beryl Markham West with the Night

Beryl Markham was a fascinating and controversial person – horsewoman, author, and aviatrix involved in more than one scandal. After reading her adventurous memoir, West with the Night, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer.” Who needs more of a recommendation than that?

Born in England in 1902, Markham moved with her family to a farm in Kenya (then British East Africa) at the age of four.  Her mother and brother soon returned to England, but Beryl stayed in Africa with her father.

She learned to speak both Swahili and English. Her playmates were African tribal children and some remained her friends into adulthood. Her blonde beauty became legendary in Kenya.

She became the first licensed female horse trainer in Kenya. One of her charges won the prestigious St. Leger race in Nairobi. Markham won the Kenya Derby six times.

She became an accomplished flyer, initially as a bush pilot and later as one of the first to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic from east to west (against prevailing winds) in 1936.

51xvwuh5htl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Markham was no angel, but I applaud her courage in pursuing her goals which defied cultural norms of the times. I heartily recommend reading West with the Night before you read what other have written about her.

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