Day 851: Straight On Till Morning

Cover for Straight on Till MorningWhen I read Circling the Sun a few months ago, I surmised that I wasn’t reading about the real Beryl Markham but someone who had been sanitized for popular consumption. Reading Straight on Till Morning has shown me that I was absolutely right. Markham was an unconventional woman who was difficult for others to understand. She had virtually no fear and didn’t care what people thought about her. Although she sometimes behaved without regard to others, she had some friends for life.

Straight on Till Morning is an extremely interesting biography of a fascinating woman. It follows Markham through her careers as horse trainer, flyer, and author. It also tells of her relationships with many well-known people, including Dennis Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Ernest Hemingway, Prince Harry, and Lord Delamere, as well as her three husbands and some of her many lovers.

One subject it tackles brilliantly is the authorship of Beryl’s memoir West with the Night. Controversy occurred when Beryl’s third husband claimed to have written the book, and others asserted that she couldn’t have written it because she was almost illiterate. Lovell is able to show, first, that no one questioned Markham’s authorship until the book was republished in the 1980’s, second, that not only was Markham a voracious reader but she submitted hundreds of pages to her editor before she even met her husband. Her husband, Raoul Schumaker, was a writer of sorts (mostly pulp westerns), but it is Lovell’s opinion that his style is nothing like that of West with the Night but much more closely matches that of some short stories they collaborated on. Lovell states that Schumaker probably helped Markham edit West with the Night, but the remaining artifacts of that collaboration (comments and markups) indicate that his role was as editor.

If you are at all interested in this unusual woman who led such a colorful life, I think you’ll enjoy this biography. It is lively and well written and meticulous in research.

Related Posts

Circling the Sun

Hons and Rebels

The Happy Foreigner


9 thoughts on “Day 851: Straight On Till Morning

  1. Carolyn O February 18, 2016 / 12:06 pm

    The novel didn’t appeal to me, but this certainly does! I remember wondering who she was when watching Out of Africa years ago.

    • whatmeread February 18, 2016 / 12:08 pm

      It didn’t appeal to me that much, either. This book is really interesting, and I think I want to read West with the Night. Have you read that?

      • Carolyn O February 18, 2016 / 12:09 pm


  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings February 18, 2016 / 1:08 pm

    This is perfect! I did read West With the Night and liked it much better than Circling the Sun. When I wrote my review of WWTN, I briefly read that her third husband claimed he had written it. I was curious to read more at that time, but then forgot about it. Now I know where to turn to find out more about Markham.

    • whatmeread February 18, 2016 / 1:29 pm

      Yes, I thought this book was really interesting. I wasn’t aware that her husband had claimed he wrote it (what a jerk), but Lovell is pretty convincing that he couldn’t have.

  3. Naomi February 18, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    So, I’m going to guess that you recommend this one over Circling the Sun? I was sent Circling the sun, but haven’t read it, because of your niggling feeling that it wasn’t quite what it should be. So glad you found something you feel is more accurate!

    • whatmeread February 19, 2016 / 7:22 am

      Well, obviously not everyone had the reaction that I did.Maybe you’ll enjoy it. But I liked the bio better.

  4. priscilla February 20, 2016 / 10:20 am

    This sounds fascinating. I want to read Circling the Sun, but I’ve seen mixed opinions about it. I like the idea of reading all three books (the novel, the autobiography, and this one) to get a real sense of the person.

    • whatmeread February 20, 2016 / 6:35 pm

      I intend to do that eventually.

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