McLain, author of the popular The Paris Wife, weaves the tale of Markham’s life with its disappointments, loves and a spirit that would not be quashed. Brought to Kenya at a young age, Beryl’s mother returned to England, taking her son with her but not four-year-old Beryl, who was left in the care of her horseman father and the village natives from whom she would learn many of life’s important lessons. The year was 1904 and Nairobi was not much more than a country town. The scattered British settlers banded together with clubs, parties and horse races.
The young girl’s unconventional upbringing made her a strong, bold woman who spoke her mind and loved all wild things. The family farm failed and Beryl’s father moved to South Africa, leaving 16-year-old Beryl to marry an older settler who seemed a promising catch. It’s not a happy match and Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer. Her uncommon style puts her squarely into the decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules.
Here her life becomes entwined with the charismatic Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen in a complicated love triangle. Blixen went on to write Out of Africa under the pen name Isak Dinesen, but no mention is made of Beryl. The intensity of Beryl’s love for Hatton, a pilot, leads the young woman to become a record setting pilot and one of the first women ever granted a professional B license. As a bush pilot, she continued to train racehorses and win derbies, but she pioneered the practice of scouting elephants from the air, fulfilling Hatton’s vision after his death.
Married three times, she was truly a woman before her time with the exhilaration of freedom and tenacity of the human spirit.
— Lynn Lofton, email@example.com
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