"How is it possible to bring order our of memory? I should like to begin at the beginning, patiently, like a weaver at his loom. I should like to say,'This is the place to start; there can be no other.'
But there are a hundred places to start for there are a hundred names -- Mwanza, Serengeti, Nungwe, Molo, Nakuru. There are easily a hundred names, and I can begin best by choosing one of them --- not because it is first nor of any importance in a wildly adventurous sense, but because here it happens to be, turned uppermost in my logbook. After all, I am no weaver. Weavers create. This is remembrance -- revisitation; and names are keys that open corridors no longer fresh in the mind, but nonetheless familiar in the heart." (Beryl Markham, in West With the Night)
Good beginnings have a way of immediately transporting you to the place described, of immediately giving you some affinity for the character portrayed, and Beryl Markham's books does just that. I love this book. Just reading the first couple of paragraphs I almost can't resist reading on in it, the language so poetic, the descriptions so rich.
If you love airplanes, you'll love this book. (Markham was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, all described in harrowing detail here.) If you love horse, you'll love this book. (She was a longtime trainer and breeder of race horses.) If you love Africa, or the images of foreign places, you'll love this book. (Markham grew up and lived and worked mostly in East Africa, a contemporary of the more well know Isak Dineson, who wrote Out of Africa.) But if you care little about any of those things but simply love writing, you'll really love this book. The prose is luminous. (Until I looked that word up, I wasn't exactly sure what it meant, but I sure liked it and wanted to use it. It means clear, and inspiring, as in full of light.) In fact, this writing is so good that you'll love flying, horses, and Africa when you finish, if you didn't before.
Would that Beryl Markham's own life was as luminous as her prose. She had four unhappy marriages, in part because of her own selfishness. She had what C.S. Lewis once described as a "horrible freedom," not being able to say "no" to the passions she had. She died alone, in her small home on the edge of the Nairobi Airfield, in 1986, still "east of Eden," as far as is known not knowing her Creator.