MacColl’s sophomore novel is a rousing piece of historical fiction that follows the childhood of Beryl Markham, who would become the first pilot to fly solo from England to North America. In 1912, 10-year-old Beryl lives in a tiny hut on her father’s horse farm in British East Africa, now Kenya. Always seeking adventure, she is eager to become a “murani” (warrior) along with the boys of the neighboring Nandi tribe, and to hunt the leopard that injured her beloved dog. Her friend Kibii’s father agrees to teach her how to track animals, wrestle, and spear targets, but as Beryl becomes a woman, the gap widens between her and the Nandi. And when her father attempts to make Beryl into a proper British girl, it’s war. MacColl (Prisoners in the Palace) addresses the tensions between British settlers and native Africans in this immersive story about a fiercely determined individualist. Fictional interviews, newspaper articles, and journals of Beryl’s flight appear between chapters, emphasizing how Beryl’s childhood fearlessness and refusal to accept the status quo shaped her life as an adult. Ages 9–12. (Jan.)
"A compelling tale" - Scholastic Parent and Child"
Fascinating novel about a remarkable woman's childhood. ' - VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates"
Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction." - Kirkus Reviews Starred Review"
Maccoll vividly portrays her headstrong protagonist" - Booklist"
With action and a very plucky heroine, this book will appeal to young women and men alike." - Library Media Connection"
Unique historical novel about one tenacious girl." - School Library Journal, starred review
Promise the Night is historical fiction about Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, the more difficult route because the pilot is flying into the dark. The bulk of the book describes Markham's life in what is now Kenya from age eleven through thirteen. She was a rambunctious, undisciplined, competitive child, raised by her father, Charles Clutterbuck (the "Captain"), because her mother left when Beryl was two. The Captain allowed her to be trained by the local African Nandi tribe, despite protests from her governess. As a result, Beryl was an agile runner and hunter, more like a Nandi tribesman than a "proper" English lady. Interspersed are several fictionalized news articles, diary entries, and internal thoughts about and during Markham's trans-Atlantic flight. Promise the Night is more adventure story than Markham biography. MacColl describes Markham's flirting with the danger of a lion hunt or fighting a tribal boy who challenges her. While the book held this reader's interest, it tells little about the adventure, danger and boredom of Markham's trans-Atlantic flight. "A Note to the Reader" (a brief biography of Ms. Markham) and "Further Reading" help fill in some gaps. Promise the Night also provides interesting insight into life in Africa in the early 1900s. The characters are interesting, and readers will immediately like Beryl Markham. Even though there are many interactions with the Nandi males, Promise the Night will appeal more to girls. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg
In 1936, Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. Fictionalizing material extrapolated from Markham's reminiscences in her memoir, West with the Night (first published in 1942), MacColl tells the story of Beryl Clutterbuck's girlhood on her father's farm in the beautifully described highlands of Njoro (Kenya) beginning in 1912. MacColl portrays a spirited, courageous, and often willful, Beryl who, in the absence of her mother, spends time at the Nandi village with her best friend, Kibii, under the care of his father who works for Captain Clutterbuck. Beryl's story, including encounters with lions and Beryl's killing of a rogue pet baboon, is a rousing adventure and coming-of-age story complete with an abusive governess and an unhappy boarding school experience (based on fact). MacColl also unmasks colonial imperialism through the representation of Beryl's father and others. Although Beryl resists a British up-bringing, her status as a white girl enables her to disobey tribal gender boundaries, training with the Nandi boys learning warrior skills. Ultimately, Beryl learns there is a divide between the two worlds she inhabits. Markham's transatlantic flight from England to her crash-landing in Nova Scotia is covered by the insertion of fictional interviews, newspaper articles, and Markham's recreated hand-written accounts of her flight into the main text. An account of Markham's life as a commercial pilot and racehorse trainer, and a bibliography are appended to this fascinating novel about a remarkable woman's childhood. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
Gr 6 Up—Beryl Markham, the female pilot on whom this novel is based, spent her childhood riding horses on her father's ranch in Africa and hunting lions with the local tribesmen. Diary entries and news articles between each chapter shed light on her famous transatlantic flight from east to west. Abandoned by her mother as a baby, and somewhat neglected by her father, a successful businessman and horse breeder, Beryl was raised more by the local Nandi tribe than by her family. She was considered a wild child, defying gender roles from an early age with reckless determination. Issues of racism and class are touched upon, especially in her close friendship with a local boy. An author's note explains that many events are based on fact, including beatings by a governess, expulsion from boarding school, and the strained relationship she had with a married woman who became her father's companion. Several scenes of graphic animal violence are included. Overall, this is a unique historical novel about one tenacious girl who defied odds to become successful in a field dominated by men. Give it to outdoor adventure fans or those desiring a strong female protagonist.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010). Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog--the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature--though still wildly impulsive and daring--life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person--let alone woman--to fly a plane west from Europe to America. Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)