CBR15 BINGO (Take to the Skies square: memoir written by the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to North America) BINGO! (Take to the Skies to Adulthood)
For last year’s CBR Bingo, I read Circling the Sun by Paula McClain and loved it. I fell hard for the problematic but endlessly fascinating shenanigans of mostly swanky Europeans living, farming and cocktailing their way across East Africa. McClain’s novel centered on Beryl Markham who was the most interesting of the bunch. Raised on her father’s farm, she grew up with the boys of the local tribe and held her own with them, hunting and roaming around the dangers of the African landscape. She was mauled by neighbor’s pet lion, grew up to be a horse trainer and eventually became an aviatrex who was the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to North America. FASCINATING. As a side effect of reading McClain’s novel, I also read Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen’s account of the same place and time period, Out of Africa, which I did not love. I think because Beryl was more my jam, her book did not disappoint.
One more comparison: unlike Out of Africa, Markham’s memoir is actually cohesize. While it does jump from situation to situation, it does so in a linear path. She writes about her feral childhood, her love of horses and her unending curiosity. After her father decides to leave Africa, eighteen year old Beryl establishes herself as a horse trainer in the male dominated horse racing industry in 1920’s Kenya. When she discovers flying, she blends her love of the African landscape with a job scouting for big game hunters, flying medical supplies and making emergency gin runs. Again, FASCINATING.
While she mentions male friends and lovers, although she does not refer to them as such in her memoir, Beryl completely leaves out her husbands and any mention whatsover of her romantic relationships. She doesn’t even hint at it. It is as though she deemed those parts of her life existing seperately from who she was and what she accomplished. It was refreshing.