The writing of Paula McLain is so visual. “Before Kenya was Kenya,when it was millions of years old and yet somehow still new,the name belonged only to our most magnificent mountain”(Part 0ne) Immediately you are in Kenya. The story of Beryl Markham is an interesting read despite it getting bogged down at times. I loved “The Paris Wife” by the same author so I felt a tinge of disappointment that this book was not of the same caliber as “The Paris Wife”. The book starts out with a prologue in 1936 of Beryl getting ready to fly her trans Atlantic flight from east to west. The back story begins in the 1920’s with her childhood and her issues with her mother’s abandonment. We are introduced to all the wealthy English expats who are living a somewhat decadent lifestyle in Kenya. Affairs and alcohol are prevalent throughout the book. Two of those expats that are friends with Beryl are Karen Blixen(pen name Isak Dinesen “Out of Africa”)and Denys Finch Hatton. Their relationship is complicated and Beryl struggles with this.
Beryl is a strong, wild independent woman who starts out as a horse trainer and eventually becomes an aviator and bush pilot. There were times I did not see that independence shine through especially with her first marriage and divorce. I am sure it was the times(early twentieth century) but she had to bargain for her divorce. Women were so tied to their husbands finances with nothing to show for their contributions to their marriages.
All in all the book does show Beryl’s great love for Kenya and it’s people. It also shows her willingness to try just about anything to survive.She was not a woman without faults and failures and the authors retelling of Beryl’s trials may just be the strength of this book.