Beryl Markham is someone who you would want to meet and study, I think. This story is nuts, but at the same time, it lacks the pull of human relationships that generally carry me through a story. People obviously read for different reasons, but for me it is relationships that pull me through a story – not necessarily romantic relationships, you understand, but the way people interact. Will they be friends? Will they fall in love? Will they betray each other? There is none of that in this book, so it is not an obvious fit for me as a reader in that way. It is, however, about a badass woman, who was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.
For the most part, people have such interesting lives. I mean, even a person who lives the most normal, or the most domestic, life ever has some kind of story, something to say about life, something about betrayal or compassion or just what it means to be a human. And then there are people like Beryl Markham, who are like, Oh hai, did I ever tell you about the time I almost got eaten by a lion
? !!! ???? Whaaa? That is very exotic to me. And then there was that time where she went hunting boar with her buddies, who were Maasai warriors. Oh, and that other time where she saved everybody from floods and killer ants and killer elephants using just her wits and tiny airplanes. So, despite the general absence of human relationships in this book, it’s just an inherently interesting story.
Hemingway was a fan of this book, and it is always interesting to me to read the writers he admired. With Hemingway, I always get this feeling that every sentence is seething with emotion just underneath the surface of what it says, and he’s stuffed that emotion down and tried to nail the sentence shut, but the emotion seeps through the cracks. But, the authors he loves always seem to actually be apathetic. Maybe I’m generalizing too much, but that’s how it seems to me from A Moveable Feast and Jeannette Walls's books, this is a great recommendation. You just get this sense that Markham did whatever the fuck she wanted to do, and she could not have cared less if someone told her not to. She just swatted them away and worked with more drive to get what she wanted. I am left with an unfortunate desire to read celebrity gossip about her, though. Who was the woman behind the legend? But, at the same time, I am glad at the dignity of the story, and I am unimpressed at my own unseemly dissatisfaction.