Let me admit, up front, that I am three decades behind the times. Better late than never, I guess.
In 1983 Beryl Markham’s memoir, West with the Night was re-released, some 40 years after its first issue and meteoric fame in 1942. I don’t remember who recommended this to me recently—but thank you! Thank you!
After its first release the book was soon forgotten in the tragedy of war, and only by fortuitous happenstance was it revived, after someone picked up this quote in one of Ernest Hemingway’s letters:
“[Markham] has written so well, and marvellously 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 on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen.
"But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers ... it really is a bloody wonderful book."
Forget the part about being unpleasant or a b---; they form no part of the work. Anyone who risks her life again and again to airlift supplies to others in remote and dangerous parts of Africa deserves a bit of a break.
The book is a soaring account of a young girl coming of age in East Africa, defying stereotypes to become a professional horse trainer, and after that, an accomplished bush pilot.
She topped that by being the first woman to fly ...