Beryl Markham’s West with the Night provides fascinating lessons in history, geography, plant and animal wildlife, and courageous living. The title West with the Night refers to Markham’s 1936 feat of flying solo from England across the Atlantic to North America; she was the first person to do so. The 3,600-mile flight was from east to west, and most of the twenty-one hours and twenty-five minutes of the trip were in darkness, against the wind, and over unbroken ocean. It was an extraordinary achievement in an era when there were few pilots with such daring and few women pilots at all.
Most of the book, however, is not about this record-setting flight but about Markham’s years in Africa, where her English father had bought an isolated and remote farm in British East Africa (later Kenya). Markham recalls her childhood, her young adult years as a trainer of thoroughbred horses, and her years as a pilot carrying mail and scouting for elephants. She re-creates for readers a chapter in African history that has disappeared. Her Africa was an untamed land just at the point when European settlers began to bring their traditions and their technology, eventually transforming the country according to their own ideas of progress.
West with the Night is divided into four numbered “books,” each subdivided into chapters whose titles suggest their topics. Chapter 1, “Message from Nungwe,” for example, tells of Markham...
(The entire section is 444 words.)