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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: West With the Night by Beryl Markham

West With the Night is my book club's book for the month of March. Beryl Markham was a real lady who grew up on a farm/plantation in what is now Kenya back in the first half of the 20th century. She was born in 1902 and wrote her book in 1942. She started out her career as a horse breeder and trainer and moved on to flight in her 30s, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, which is much harder than flying west to east since you're going against the tradewinds. She very nearly became the first human to do so, but was beaten by a man by a matter of a few weeks.

Although I enjoyed the author's descriptions of Africa and definitely felt her love for the continent, I was disappointed with a few things. First, as you can imagine, colonial thinking was pretty blatant through out. There were times Ms. Markham spoke out against certain practices, like the killing of elephants for their ivory, but at the same time, she took a job in which she flew big game hunters to where they could find elephants and shoot them. She spoke of how she used to be friends with a young African boy, and on equal footing with him, but had no problem that once they were both grown, he showed deference by walking behind her. The author also conveniently forgets to mention that she was married three times, her last name, Markham, was her second husband's surname. In fact, she never speaks of any of her relationships throughout the entire book. When she writes of nights in which she is woken up to bring needed medicine to a dying person hundreds of miles away, she never talks about how these midnight calls affected her marriages.

Those things colored my view of the book, and I found myself really wishing I didn't have to finish it. Though she was a very unique woman, especially for her time, I don't find myself admiring her in the least, and so this is a book I just can't recommend.

2017 Read Harder Challenge: Book Written 1900-1950

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