This poetic memoir of pilot Beryl Markham is more a gathering of meaningful memories than a story of her remarkable life. Born in 1902, she moved with her father from England to East Africa as a young child. She learned to train and breed horses, learned how to fly a plane, and at the age of 34 became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. I love Africa (as an armchair traveler only, sadly)--stories of Africa, pictures of Africa, movies of Africa (such as Out of Africa) . . . You get the idea. Her descriptions of the land and the people were so vibrant and I loved the words she chose to paint a picture of her memories. I was very much carried away with her beautiful descriptions, and then . . .
I went to the library's discussion of this book. I hadn't had time to do any extra research about Markham (okay, I wasn't even done with the book at the time), and I had so many questions about parts of her life that she didn't address. It turns out that there is doubt that she is the true author of the book (it could be one of her lovers or husbands, or more than one), and that she (or whoever wrote it) embellished parts of it. I should also note that a couple of readers were not as carried away with the writing as I was--they felt is was too flowery, over-the top, and overwrought. Here's a passage that I liked, but was probably not appreciated by them:
There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.
So if you like this style, you will love this book, but if you're gagging as you read it, just pass this one by. I still would have to say that I enjoyed it, regardless of who really wrote it, but I do feel a bit cheated that some of the stories were not entirely true.