Monday, July 4, 2016
As a young girl, Beryl Markham arrived in Kenya from Britain with her parents who were seeking a new life. For her Mother, the dream quickly faded and she returned home, but Beryl and her father stayed and made a life for themselves in the hard scrabble country along with the Kipsigis tribe who shared their estate. Her mother's abandonment made an impact on her that is certainly hard to calculate. Her unconventional upbringing turned her into a fierce young woman with a love of all things wild...but even wild children have to grow up, and this fictionalized account of her life and loves is a gripping page turner. It presents her as a flawed human being (which we all are) who sometimes makes smart decisions and sometimes pretty stupid ones...but it is written very well and is really an exquisite story of a woman who wasn't afraid to push the boundaries of what was expected at the time in her search to find her way in the world. And though she managed to accomplish a lot in her life, her personal character wasn't always a shining example.
This quote tells you much about Beryl's attitude to life: "We're all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren't your own person at all--are you? The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy."
The descriptions of Africa are what made the book for me, and she certainly managed to capture the adventurous spirit that was Beryl Markham. A remarkable read.
Lee Smith has wanted to be a writer ever since she can remember. She started telling stories as soon as she could talk, and made them up as well. Her father was fond of saying that she would climb a tree to tell a lie rather than stand on the ground to tell the truth. Dimestore is a love letter to the people and places that made a writer out of a small town southern girl.
Lee has established herself as a preeminent voice of the south through her fiction over the last 45 years. This book is about her enchanting childhood in the small coal mining town of Grundy, Virginia where her father owned a Ben Franklin Dimestore and ran it for many years. Her thoughts and reminiscences around place, memory, and writing are charming and heart-felt. Told with honest, humor, and sensitivity, it is a moving portrait of her heritage and a tasty slice of southern culture. A fast and enjoyable read.