West With the Night, Beryl Markham

It is delightful to read of a woman having such adventures in the early 20 th century without apparent trace of gender resistance or romantic overlay.  Perhaps it is the wildness of Africa that allows this, or perhaps self-editing, but either way, Beryl Markham’s memoir  furnishes a shining example of the non-universality of our commonly held stereotypes.

As a writer, Markham tends to the florid, as is typical of her era.  Still, she can kindle excitement at a chase, and when it comes to her own actions, she leans to dryness and understatement.  One actually wonders if a biographer might expose even more drama in this material than does the subject herself.  The Africa of which she tells has plenty of inequality, though the racism which underlies it seems, in what is perhaps a Colonialist’s view, genteel and respectful.  Of course there is plenty of exploitation going on beyond the horizon, setting the stage for later, less sanguine, interactions.

An enjoyable and eye-opening artifact of time and place, as well as a glimpse of an admirably independent spirit.

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