The Lives of Beryl Markham: Out of Africa's Hidden Free Spirit and Denys Finch Hatton's Last Great Love

by Errol Trzebinski

Hardcover, 1993




New York : W.W. Norton, 1993.


Drawing on her own long association with Markham, as well as diaries, letters, and interviews, Errol Trzebinski unravels the complexities of one of the century's great personalities.Markham's memoir, West with the Night, was rediscovered in 1983 and became an instant bestseller, though shadowed by rumors that Markham was not the actual author. Trzebinski here puts the question of authorship to rest, as she answers many other questions about Markham in this riveting true story of courage, rivalry, sexual intrigue, and revenge.

User reviews

LibraryThing member readyreader
Well, I feel compelled to write a little something about "The Lives of Beryl Markham" since there are no others, and I do think it has merit. As biographies go, it certainly met the criteria of having lots of dates, names, places, and events of which I found it overwhelming to keep track. But the heart of the book is the personality (or should I say personalities) of Beryl Markhm in her endless quest for something...fame, fortune, achievement, value in other's eyes, but I don't think it was ever love. Her insatiable sexual appetitie and always finding the "grass greener on the other side of the fence" when it came to men lends itself to a narcissistic type of personality that can never be satisfied. The author's premise throughout the book was that her one great love, Denys Finch Hatton, died tragically before they could fulfil their destiny as a couple. However, I have the feeling that had he lived to attain that goal, she would have tired of him also or vice versa in due course. Even with all her faults, which were many, she achieved much in the area of horse training and aviation, both unusual occupations during her era (perhaps not so much in Kenya at that time) which alone make her an interesting person to study. Her demise, in addition to her scandalous reputation for sexual conquests, was really sealed when it became apparent that she was not the author of "West with the Night" ghost written by her then husband, Raoul Schumacher, and then would never admit it. A common thread throughout the book was that she attracted people (mostly men) likes flies to sugar, even when she treated them shabbily. And this attraction held for the author too. The author traces all of Beryl's behaviors back to her childhood with a mother who abandoned her and a father who had little impact on raising a young girl in the African bush. To me, the cause was not the wildness of the Arican bush but the clash of cultures, the bush and white Kenyan society of the time, that truly guided Beryl's choices throughout her life.… (more)
LibraryThing member Whisper1
Beryl Markham led quite a life, one of hedonism, selfishness, ruthlessness without a thought of how her actions impacted on those in her circle. Today she would be categorized as a sociopath. This is a tale of her life, including her many male conquests.

Abandoned in Africa by her mother, from an early age, she was loosely raised by her father. Working with him to train superb race horses, she acquired a reputation of doing men's work.

With little social skills, and a dire lack of education, she was able to use enough people to scratch and fight her way to the top of inner circles. Dennys Finch Hatton, Bjor Blixen, Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen, and Barkley Cole were but a few of those she claimed as "friends."

Basically, to put it crudely, she slept her way through East Africa, drawing men like moths to a dangerous flame, she cared very little for her reputation, or the emotional turmoil she left behind..

She learned to fly a plane, and to her credit, her book West With the Night outlines her major accomplishment of being the first female to travel cross ocean. However, there is doubt that she actually wrote that book, and instead her former husband most likely penned it for her.

I did enjoy the depiction of East Africa and the ruggedness of that continent at the time of the great white hunters. Beryl Markham was indeed an interesting woman. Tall, beautiful and sensual, she deserves credit for her accomplishments.
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