West With the Night

By Beryl Markham
THIS book is Africa; it is also Beryl Markham, one of the most self-reliant, intrepid women who ever lived. As a mere child, the daughter of an English farmer in Africa, she was attacked by a lion — no circus lion either — and miraculously escaped with a few scars. (Previously she had sung a song to the lion, but he wasn’t impressed!) The only white child anywhere near Njoro, she had a native playmate; she had no alternative but to learn all there was of native lore; she describes the Kikuyu dances with enviable graphic skill. Horses were a part of her life; her portrait of Camciscan, a thoroughbred imported from England and as solitary as herself on the African scene, is superb and full of understanding of animal nature. While still in her teens she undertook the breeding of race horses; incidentally, she describes a horse race which her horse won, communicating to the reader a rare thrill. It was inevitable that she should become acquainted with aeroplanes, and that this acquaintance should become a passion. In her capacity as a free-lance aviator, she carried mail, passengers, supplies to safaris; she was the first person to use the aeroplane for spotting elephants for the benefit of hunters. Her ultimate achievement was her westward transatlantic flight in 1936, though she failed to reach her goal, New York. This is a stimulating, well-written book. J. C.