My favourite of the books I have read the past year has clearly been West With the Night, a memoir by Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in the westward direction (and only the second person to do so). There are questions whether she actually wrote it or whether she had a ghost writer, but in a way it does not matter - it is a truly delightful read, extremely well written, with a lot of colour and flavour from her childhood onwards, as she grew up in east Africa. It had me snorting laughing at times, other times struggling with seemingly getting stuff stuck in my eyes. It's gloriously wellwritten. Go and read it!
That said, I am also left with SO MANY QUESTIONS. The burning questions, entrenched so deep in my soul that I dream about them.
Beryl Markham is quite obviously, even seen from the book where her own standing in society is not much mentioned, quite the character. She was the first female (race) horse trainer in the area, one of the first bush pilots, and all of this being female, young, in the nineteen twenties. She seems to have been quite the racy young lady! I got the sense from the books that she had intimate relationships with some of the men she mentioned, though nothing is directly said. When I set out to learn more about her I was thus somewhat surprised to learn that she was married three times, and had a son. The husbands and her son are never mentioned in the book and thus my curiousity just grew. She decides on the spur of the moment (more or less) to go to England. Her farewell to her father is mentioned, but a son? Was she actually married at the time? And being a bush pilot? And and and.
One of the men I got the sense that she was having a relationship with was Denys Finch Hutton, Karen Blixen's onetime lover. The online resources I have found about Markham seems to confirm this. This leads me to point out that we thus get another view at many of the events mentioned in Out of Africa (of personal note as a reader is that Blixen is among the authors that have thoroughly captivated me as an adult too), as well getting to know many of the people in Karen Blixen's immediate surroundings better, including her never-mentioned husband.
Well. My curiousity has NOT been sated yet. This blog post brought to you by dreaming about meeting Beryl Markham and her acquaintance, and flying in the bush, last night, although it is a while since I read the book.
I hope that if nothing else I have inspired you to read West With the Night :) And if you can provide me with more resources about the fantastic person that lived those events, please do. Meanwhile I am off to read a biography..