I had never heard of Beryl Markham before, so when this audio-book popped up on the library website, I was intrigued. Markham was the first female to do a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean from East to West – this flight was much harder than the other direction due to the strong headwinds. She accomplished this feat on September 4, 1936, at the age of 31.
Markham’s life was amazing in many other ways. Born in England, her family moved to Kenya when she was four years old, and she spent her childhood among lions and other African wildlife, hunting boar, and riding the racehorses her father trained.
As an adult, she moved into her father’s occupation of racehorse training, and became a celebrated trainer in Kenya. She also learned to fly planes, and became the first female bush pilot in Africa, flying scouting missions for hunting parties as well as providing transportation around a country with few usable roads.
The book was published in 1942, and is a memoir of her life, from early childhood through her amazing solo flight. Her writing evokes the images of life in rural Africa; you feel as if you are actually in that plane with her, looking down on the elephants and zebra below. Her character development is superb – the cast from her life was a unique and motley crew.
Markham is a fantastic writer, but I do wish that she had spent a little more time on her Trans-Atlantic flight. It is really only given a little bit of time at the very end of the book. Beyond that, my only gripe would be that the audio-book reader had a bit of a monotone reading voice, which was a distraction at first.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly, learning about a strong woman and an important historical figure. She broke barriers in a world that didn’t give women a lot of chances to do amazing things; she single-handedly did several.
If you have a chance to read it, I hope you will. If you have already, please let me know what you thought!