Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best books countdown - an aviatrix and a seductress

Christmas rain is fantastic for two reasons. 
Because our great, thirsty land desperately needs it. And it's the perfect excuse for enjoying a post-Christmas cook-up repose with a new book straight out of Santa's sack.
With only three (!!) days left of 2009, I've come up with my three best books of the year... 
Today's choice is a brilliant biography which I've loved for years but it gets a mention because I re-read it this year and it was no less gripping. Sign of a true classic I say.
The book is The Lives of Beryl Markham, by Errol Trzebinski and the front cover tags her as 'Out of Africa's hidden seductress'. (Try a secondhand bookstore - it was first published in 1993.)
Beryl Markham grew up in Kenya and throughout her tough, primitive, glamorous and often amoral life she stirred the feathers of the colonial elite in East Africa, courting fame and admiration across the globe. As well as a fair dose of scandal.
In 1936 Beryl was the first woman to fly solo west across the Atlantic. 
She was also a champion horse breeder and, on earning her wings, ran the first airmail runs across Africa in the days when pilots still repaired their own aircraft on the fly and the plains of the Serengeti were blanketed by magnificent herds of wildlife roaming free from the scourge of poaching and land-grabbing.
This is the story of someone who took life by the horns and rode it to the edge of the earth, constantly challenging herself and those she influenced to seek out new horizons both internally and externally.
In a captivating twist, one of the great loves of her life was safari hunter Denys Finch-Hatton, famously portrayed by Robert Redford in the film Out Of Africa. It appears Karen Blixen was not Denys' only mistress...
If you like a great bio and are looking for something un-put-downable - this is it!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Beryl makes all our dear pilot friends seem very lame indeed, fixing her own 'craft on the fly. Or should I say, they all seem lame without LAMEs.... Not to mention flying solo, west across the Atlantic. We never hear the end of them flying to MEL and pax'ing back! ;) x