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West with the Night Paperback – August 5, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 786 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Martino Fine Books (August 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578989531
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578989539
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (786 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book comes with a built-in audience...women, pilots, lovers of Africa, loners...and, above all, those who love the English language and how descriptive it can be.

This is NOT a memoir; more a series of vignettes that Markham put together from her memory which she announces from the beginning that is extremely hard to recover accurately. Reprinted when she was in her 80s, it became a best seller. The original printing was received well, but not nearly so well as when she was rediscovered. It didn't help that many believe she was not the "real" author; she never wrote anything else that came close to the beautiful prose exhibited here.

Praised by Hemingway, who evidently envied her writing skills, fame faded away from this woman whose personality was forbidding (except for her lovers, one presumes) and enigmatic. Not one word about her somewhat unconventional life is present in this volume, but her deep and abiding love for Africa is evident throughout. Worth reading for its use of language and evocative images, don't look for her to reveal the private details of a life that must have been fascinating.
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