A new edition of a great, underappreciated classic of our time
Beryl Markham's West with the Night is a true classic, a book that deserves the same acclaim and readership as the work of her contemporaries Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Isak Dinesen.
If the first responsibility of a memoirist is to lead a life worth writing about, Markham succeeded beyond all measure. Born Beryl Clutterbuck in the middle of England, she and her father moved to Kenya when she was a girl, and she grew up with a zebra for a pet; horses for friends; baboons, lions, and gazelles for neighbors. She made money by scouting elephants from a tiny plane. And she would spend most of the rest of her life in East Africa as an adventurer, a racehorse trainer, and an aviatrix—she became the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America, the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic. Hers was indisputably a life full of adventure and beauty.
And then there is the writing. When Hemingway read Markham's book, he wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: "She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer . . . [She] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers . . . It is really a bloody wonderful book."
With a new introduction by Sara Wheeler—one of Markham's few legitimate literary heirs—West with the Night should once again take its place as one of the world's great adventure stories.
Beryl Markham (1902–1986) was a British-born Kenyan aviatrix, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. During the pioneer days of aviation, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She died at the age of 83 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Sara Wheeler is the author of many books of biography and travel, including Access All Areas: Selected Writings 1990–2011 and Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile. Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica was an international bestseller that The New York Times described as "gripping, emotional" and "compelling," and The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle was chosen as Book of the Year by Michael Palin and Will Self, among others. Wheeler lives in London.
“Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West with the Night? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously 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 [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true . . . I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.” —Ernest Hemingway
“West with the Night is the sort of book that makes you think human beings can do anything . . . When she was a mere child, she was clawed by a lion. This should have been enough to make anybody timid for life, but not Beryl . . . A jewel of taut writing and thrilling reading . . . The girl can write.” —John Chamberlain, The New York Times