Monday, September 26, 2011

Beryl Markham

I had no idea who Beryl Markham was, though she was quite famous in her day.  In 1936, she was the first woman to fly the difficult East to West Atlantic crossing.  In Promise the Night, author Michaela Maccoll, tells the story of that crossing in telegrams and letters in the grown-up Markham's voice, interspersed with the story of Markham's early adolescence.

Beryl pretty much raised herself until she was 11.  Put into the care of her father's head man, a Nandi tribesman, Beryl learned what Nandi boys learn.  She was never one to respect limits placed on her just because she was a girl.  Maccoll shows Beryl to be manipulative and stubborn, and at times incredibly brave.  At one point, I tossed the book away in disgust at Beryl's trickery.  I'm glad I picked the book back up.  Beryl's deceit is explained in a rare display of her own understanding of what life had in store for her.

There are some very exciting events in here; an attack on her bulldog by a leopard, horse races, a lion hunt, an attack on Beryl by a neighbor's "pet" lion, beatings from a governess, a stint in an unbearably stuffy boarding school.  And the author assures us that "most of the good parts" are based on fact.

This is the way I prefer to get my history, wrapped up in a very readable fictional account.  The book is due out in December, just in time for holiday gift-giving.  Hand this to a girl with stars in her eyes!

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