Book Review: West With The Night

West-with-the-NightTitle: West with the Night
Author: Beryl Markham
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: 1942
Pages: 294
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: June 21, 2020

Goodreads Description: West with the Night is the story of Beryl Markham–aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty–and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and ’30s.

My Review: I heard about this book via Jeff O’Neal on the Book Riot Podcast. Based on his description, I thought it would be an interesting travelogue. The goodreads description, as you can see above, can hardly be considered a comprehensive description. I really did not know what to expect with this book. I just really wanted to read something set in a different part of the world. Plus, Jeff O’Neal mentioned that this book was given high praise from none other than Ernest Hemingway.

I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of Beryl Markham. I have definitely been missing out. Her life was absolutely fascinating! She lived a free life, yet maybe at times a bit lonely. West With The Night has everything you could think of: descriptions of the Maasai culture, a lion attack, horse racing, malaria, World War 1, colonialism, fascism, and aviation by only maps, protractors and compasses (no navigational or radio systems).

Plus, Hemingway was absolutely correct. Beryl Markham was a beautiful writer. Her descriptions put you in another time and place beyond what may be imaginable. This book was a truly a remarkable and memorable reading experience. I highly recommend it!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

“Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday. Still I look at my yesterdays from months passed and find them as good a lot of yesterdays as anybody might want. I sit there in the firelight and see them all.”



DSC_5238aEvery year, more than a million wildebeests migrate throughout Tanzania and Kenya in DSC_4383asearch of fresh vegetation and water. I have never seen an event more amazing than watching a wildebeest migration. Watching a wildebeest migration is like watching an ant colony on a large scale (see picture on the right). They move one by one through the Serengeti. If there is too large of a gap between two wildebeests, they actually run to close that gap. If there is a storm in the distance, you can be sure that the wildebeests will head in that direction for the fresh rain water.

The most dramatic scene of the wildebeest migration is when they do a river crossing. We were very fortunate and saw a river crossing within a few moments of being in the Serengeti. When the migration reaches the Mara River, the wildebeests spend a lot of time contemplating crossing the river. It is dangerous for wildebeests to cross the river. A wildebeest could lose its footing on the rocks and break its leg. If this happens, the wildebeest will drown. The other danger is crocodiles. They prey on wildebeests as they cross, especially young wildebeests. The wildebeests could spend hours on the edge of the river just thinking about crossing. A few times we watched them get close to the water, only to have something scare them away. However, when they start crossing (sometimes with the assistance of the zebras, who are among the wildebeests and appear to be more brave by crossing first), it is game on and they all start running at once across the river. The wildebeests come from everywhere and a crossing could last a while because there are so many. The most dramatic of the five crossings we saw came during the last one. As the crossing began, we saw a crocodile in the water. A young DSC_5256awildebeest was super close to it and at one point was even standing on top of it (see picture on the left). We were all holding our breaths and hoping that the young wildebeest would make it and not die in front of our eyes. It was so intense. It turned out that the crocodile must have been well-fed already, because it made no move to attack any of the wildebeests. The young wildebeest made it to the other side safely! I am happy to report that while many wildebeests lose their lives crossing the Mara River every year, we did not witness any loss of life first hand. On the other side of the river, wildebeests connect with their families that they lose track of during the crossing and the migration continues.