Before she was Beryl Markham the first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic from east to west and the first licensed horse trainer at the age of 18, she was Beryl Clutterbuck. Born in England, her family moved to Kenya to farm and train racehorses around 1906. Her mother could not adapt so she returned to England leaving her husband and five-year-old Beryl behind. Left to her own devices she grew up a wild child in the Kenyan countryside, survived a lion attack and sought the company of the farm worker’s families. Without the usual social conventions to shape her upbringing, Beryl grew up very strong minded and thought that women should have the same privileges as men. Her unconventional ideas also spilled over into her mostly unsuccessful love life.
I enjoyed reading Paula McClain’s
historical fiction novel, Circling the Sun
, about an adventurous woman who fought against stereotypes and worked hard at her endeavors. It was also eye-opening to read about a time of European settlers in Africa. Those who read Out of Africa or saw the movie will recognize this storyline as Beryl had a long-term complicated friendship with the author Isak Dinesen
(Baroness Karen Blixen in the book).
I listened to this story in audiobook format and appreciated hearing this narrator’s voice with the added important element of proper pronunciations for unfamiliar names and places.