Saturday, March 1, 2008

West With the Night

West With the Night
Written by Beryl Markham
North Point Press
Reviewed by Heather F.

West With the Night is British-born adventurer Beryl Markham’s account of growing up in Africa. I had never heard of Markham prior to reading this book, as I'm sure many people haven't. She should be more well known! She was a renaissance woman. West With the Night follows her life as she grew up with the natives in Kenya, hunting and playing with the children of the local tribe. She became the first licensed female horse trainer in Kenya. She raced horses for a short time. She later took up flying and became a bush pilot. And, as the title refers to, she became the first person to fly the Atlantic east to west on a solo, non-stop flight; leaving from England and crash-landing in Canada.

I found this book to be endlessly fascinating. It tells the history of an Africa that I knew little about. I wonder if it even exists any more. The writing was better than I expected, I found myself jotting down several quotes to add to my quote book. I highly recommend this one to those who love travel/adventure books. Markham is the kind of woman you want to get to know.

Favorite Quotes…and I’m going to restrain myself to just a couple…

…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 that its own deserts. It is without temperance in its harshness or its favours. It yields to nothing, offering much to men of all races.

But the soul of Africa, its integrity, the slow inexorable pulse of its life, is its own and of such singular rhythm that no outsider, unless steeped from childhood in its endless, even beat, can ever hope to experience it, except only as a bystander might experience a Masai war dance knowing nothing of its music nor the meaning of its steps. Page 13

There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in the forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is the 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 out 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 man be melancholy, but it is not always so, for the chair man 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. Page 49.

No comments: