West With the Night

Thoughts wwtnbybm by Beryl Markham, orig 1942 – rereleased in 1983, 294 pages

BackToTheClassics2016 Adventure Category

Challenge:  Latest Classics Club Spin Selection (But I’m late – it was due by Dec 1st)
Genre:  Adventure, Airplanes/Flying
Type/Source: Tradeback / Local Indie Bookstore
Why I read this now: Was late for the Spin but wanted to read it anyway.

MOTIVATION for READING: I can’t recall why exactly I put this on my Classics Club 50 but I was further enticed by the historical lit recently published by Paula McClain about Ms. Markham. I wanted to read the “true” version first. 


WHAT’s it ABOUT: These are the stories of Ms. Markham; how she grew up in British East Africa now called Kenya, learned to train race horses, learned to fly airplanes, attempted to be the first to fly East to West from England to the US (managed to ‘safely’ crash in Canda), and and and… Nothing about her husbands and supposed multiple love affairs, darn it.

WHAT’s GOOD: What a way with words! I found it very easy to fall right into like relaxing into a gigantic bean bag to let the world fall away and allow me to be transported to another place and time.

What’s NOT so good:  The prose is beautiful yet she can seem detached and aloof; she barely reflects that she is a woman doing more typical man things. This was both refreshing and almost frustrating. Other things were more frustrating and interesting (racist/classist) view of how the English colonists viewed the Africans. She also seems to scorn the practice of elephant hunting but was a full participant in the profit of it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Not at all the dry and boring text I had imagined. It was lovely and tragic, poetic and appalling all at once. Certainly a remarkable woman.

RATING:  Five slices of pie, of which I noted no mention.

Has anyone read a biography of Beryl Markham? If I enjoy the McClain (and I sincerely hope I do since I did not care for The Paris Wife), I might continue indulging my fascination.


Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

15 thoughts on “West With the Night

  1. Karen K.

    I loved this book, I thought the writing was just wonderful. There’s an illustrated version which has wonderful photos. It’s out of print but not hard to track down. And I agree about The Paris Wife — I’d much rather read a biography of a famous person (or the wife of a famous person) that a fictionalized story.

  2. This is on my TBR because I read Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Almost Famous Women, which fictionalizes lesser known real women in history who were ahead of their time or weird or wild, and there’s a story about Markham. I wanted to read biographies of all the women in that collection. It’s terrific, by the way, if you haven’t read it.

  3. Circling the Sun was much better than The Paris Wife, in my opinion. I went on to read West with the Night afterwards because I wanted to know what was fact and what was a figment of the authors imagination… but was sorely disappointed. What I found instead was that Markham keeps her reader at a distance and we learn little about her personal life, thus leaving a door open for a novel like McLain’s. Wish I’d read West With the Night first.

  4. Oh, I have West With the Night on a shelf somewhere and I have yet to read it! if I didn’t have such a huge pile right now to get through I would go find it because you make it sound so good!

  5. Pingback: Back to the Classics Challenge for 2016 Wrap Up – Care's Books and Pie

  6. litandlife

    Absolutely agree: beautiful writing, dry story. If you can write that beautifully, you’d think you’d be able to write passionately about the amazing things you’ve done.

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