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West with the Night Paperback – January 22, 2013


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Frequently Bought Together

West with the Night + The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) + Out of Africa: and Shadows on the Grass
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 293 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; Second Edition edition (January 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (481 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One of the most beautifully crafted books I have ever read, with some of the most poetic prose passages I could imagine, such as the following, resonating with a stately and timeless quality so absent in our modern life:
There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.
Born in England in 1902, Markham was taken by her father to East Africa in 1906. She spent her childhood playing with native Maruni children and apprenticing with her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses. In the 1930s, she became an African bush pilot, and in September 1936, became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Library Journal

Markham's West with the Night was originally published in the early 1940s and disappeared, only to be rediscovered and reprinted in the 1980s when it became a smash hit. This latest incarnation is a lavishly illustrated edition. Though Markham is known for setting an aviation record for a solo flight across the Atlantic from East to West-hence the title-she was also a bush pilot in Africa, sharing adventures with Blor Blixen and Denys Finch-Hatton of Out of Africa fame. Hemingway, who met Markham during his safari days, dubbed the book "bloody wonderful."
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Her writing style is superb, so simply honest and clear.
Camille deford Cox
Wonderfully written story of Beryl Markham's life growing up in Kenya East Africa and her career as an aviator.
Forrest Wildwood
One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read!
Betty Lou Hunter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

185 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Jena Ball on March 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
No less a writer than Ernest Hemingway said about West with the Night, "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 pigpen. But she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers." Coming from an author who was renowned for his ego and lack of respect for other writers, this is high praise indeed, and West with the Night deserves it.
The story opens with the author being called in the middle of the night to deliver a tank of oxygen to a dying man. The reason she has been called is because her business is flying a small bi-plane through the wilds of Africa on delivery errands such as these. The flight and subsequent visit with the dying man and his doctor are used to introduce us to Africa - the rich black nights, the stories of her native peoples, the harsh reminder with the appearance of a jackal that "...in Africa there is never any waste."
In this first section we also begin to know and wonder about the author, a native of Britain who was transplanted to African soil at the age of 2 and raised by her father on his farm at Njoro. There her primary playmates were the children of the Nandi Murani tribe and her principle schoolroom the African landscape itself. As Markham puts it, "Africa was the breath and life of my childhood. It is still the host of all my darkest fears, the cradle of mysteries always intriguing, but never wholly solved. It is the remembrance of sunlight and green hills, cool water and the yellow warmth of bright mornings. It is as ruthless as any sea, more uncompromising than its own deserts.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth W. Movius on September 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Mere moments have passed since I closed the back cover on "West with the Night", and already I am missing its world and its voice. It is one of those rare books that can, with the simple fluidity of its narrative, pull you in and engulf you entirely.
I am not a big fan of the memoir, but Markham's (or whoever wrote it) voice is neither bombastic nor humble; she feels less a narrator or subject than a fellow traveller, along with you for the ride. Although the life she lived was extraordinary and compelling, she refreshingly views it in clipped, casual, careful terms, as unimpressed with herself as if she'd been a midwestern housewife, not a pilot and horse trainer in Colonial Africa.
Many readers will approach "West with the Night" out of a pre-existing interest in and knowledge of its era and characters, and will no doubt experience it entirely differently than I did. While a few names rang vague bells, for the most it was an engaging introduction. But I read it as literature, not as history, and enjoyed it immensely as such. I found her small personal anecdotes far more interesting than the accounts of her grand feats. The Atlantic flight that made her famous rounds out the end of the book, but is rather dry and dull compared to her African tales. Stories such as her father's pompous parrot had me in spasms of public giggles.
It is little wonder that Hemmingway praised this book, as the sparse directness of its utilitarian prose makes even the Old Man of the Sea seem a flowery romantic. Its structure can be rather meandering, but in that regard it resembles the contours of memory, which makes me believe Markham did indeed write her own book.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
I visited Kenya last year and saw this book all over the shelves, and I picked it up. Little did I know, I was picking up one of the best written and most evocative books of all time. I was swept away immediatly by her involving narrative and descriptions. And let me tell you, the descriptions capture the Kenyan landscape and people remarkably well. It is just as wonderful and mysterious as Markham writes. This book transported me to the dazzling age of the 1920's and 30's in Kenya--which is full of fascinating trailblazers. I read a lot of the novel outloud, and her thoughts seemed to become my thoughts. Her anecdotes and experiences are so poignant that they seem to shoot me right through the heart. I want to reread this novel again and again, it is wonderous. Hemingway was right when he said " it is a bloody wonderful book." If you like Markham, you should read Isak Dineson's classic Out of Africa. However, Markham does more soul-searching and delving into herself than Dineson does. You'll recognize some familiar charactars as well. Both are true stories!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ein Kunde on December 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Whoever wrote it, "West With the Night" is a lyrically beautiful story of an amazing life: Beryl Markham arrived in Africa in 1905 at the age of three, she spent her childhood on her father's farm, learning all about African people and wildlife; she became a horse-trainer (racing was surprisingly popular in colonial Kenya); she was the first woman in Africa to have a pilot's license, working as a freelance pilot in Kenya; she was the first person to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic East-to-West (hence the book's title). This book is an interesting and very readable documentation of Kenya in the era of Isak Dinesen, Bror Blixen, Denys Finch Hatton, et al (all of whom she knew). Hemingway praised this book lavishly, saying:
"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. .... But this girl who is, to my knowledge, very unpleasant,... can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as 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. So, you have to take as truth the early stuff about when she was a child which is absolutely superb. She omits some very fantastic stuff which I know about which would destroy much of the character of the heroine; but what is that anyhow in writing?"
As Hemingway may have suspected, Markham may not be the real author, and "West With the Night" does leave out major portions of her life; it would be a good idea to read it along with the biography of her life, "Straight On Till Morning: The Biography of Beryl Markham" by Mary Lovell (Lovell also wrote "A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton").
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