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The Island That Dared: Journeys in Cuba [Hardcover]

Dervla Murphy
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 14.77 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

23 Sep 2008
Take a three-generation family holiday in Cuba in the company of Dervla Murphy, her daughter and three young granddaughters and you have a Swallows and Amazon like adventure in the Caribean as they trek into the hills and along the coast as a family, camping out on empty beaches beneath the stars and relishing the ubiquitous Cuban hospitality. But this is no more than the joyful start of a fully-fledged quest to understand the unique society created by the Cuban Revolution. For Dervla returns alone to explore the mountains, coastal swamps and decaying cities, investigating the experience of modern Cuba with her particular, candid curiosity. Through her own research and through conversations with Fidelistas and their critics alike, The Island That Dared builds a complex picture of a people struggling to retain their identity in the face of insistent hostility of the government of the United States.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing Ltd; 1st Edition edition (23 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906011354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906011352
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.8 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 532,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In her latest book the tireless Dervla Murphy, still travelling rough in her late seventies, sets out to get to grips with Cuba a place of impulsive friendship and impenetrable bureaucracy.<br /><br />There has always been a raw energy about her work that sets her apart from some of her paler contemporaries. Now in her mid-70s, she has written at least 25 books but, judging by this volume she's in no danger of mellowing ... Fierce, highly moral and uncompromising, this is classic Murphy. In an often anodyne world, she remains an original...she is a refreshingly defiant voice, straight-talking and no-nonsense. --Financial Times, November 2008

The three journeys in her latest book are explorations of [Cuba's] change... disquisitions on homophobia, attitudes to AIDS and much else, indicates that at 77, Murphy s status as one of our most respected travel writers shows no sign of weakening. Eland seems a natural home for her. --Geographical, December 2008

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supergran does Cuba 9 Dec 2008
Having recently returned from a two week independent tour of Cuba with very mixed feelings about the place I was interested to see the dynamic Dervla was bringing out a book on the island.
The first hundred pages are about her experiences while on a tour of eastern Cuba with her daughter and three grandaughters (the trio as she calls them)which I found all a bit too domestic but then for the following three hundred pages we get vintage Dervla as she returns for two solo trips around the rest of the island.
With her usual scorn for modern conveniences she travels by every clapped out means of transport she can find and when she can't find any she just walks. On route, she meets and talks to scores of ordinary Cubans whose views are reported without fear or favour.
The book is laced with a plentiful supply of historical fact and political polemic. While the authors own sympathies for what she calls Castroism are very evident she nevertheless has plenty of criticism for the regimes failings.
This is the real 'rough guide' to Cuba.
Minor criticisms are the poor illustrations and a number of typo errors but I'll lay them at the door of the publisher as Dervla Murphy is a secular saint(of travellers)in my humble opinion.

If you are interested in Cuba, go and buy it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great mix of personal and historical analysis 12 Mar 2010
By Nemesis
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have devoured most of Dervla Murphy's books with great enjoyment. I found this one similar in style to "The Embers of Chaos", her book about the Balkans, in that there is a large amount of historical and political background compared to her usual books - possibly because these two areas require such an analysis due to their complex histories. It made the reading a little heavier than usual, but that's no bad thing.

The book has two sections, the first a charming account of her journey to Cuba with her daughter and granddaughters, the second written after a solo return to the island some months later.

The book does a great job of showing you what life is really like for the average Cuban and reaches past the western anti-Castro propaganda and the green-sea-white-sand sanitized and segregated tourist brochure idyll, presenting a reality that is at odds with and seriously threatened by both of these views.

This is a mature and insightful work of great value. You will not be disappointed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A travelogue with depth and context 8 April 2011
This is a superb book for anyone who has been to Cuba or who has an interest in Cuba. It is a travelogue but also much more than that.
Dervla Murphy makes considerable effort to understand the context of this complex and unique island, and that involves sections of historical, political and social analysis, as well as straight-forward - and very enjoyable - passages of travel writing. However it is far from a dull read. It is not a lightweight read, granted, but it reads well, and the historical and political aspects that Murphy looks at only serve to add necessary understanding towards what it is that makes Cuba so unique. Murphy does not attempt to sit on the fence in terms of her own views; this might irritate some, but for me it just adds to the charm of her writing. She is an intelligent and forthright woman without guille, and with a heart and a mind open to the everyday people that she meets and describes so well.
Very few people could do Cuba justice in print as well as Murphy has done here. I've read many of her books, and this, for me, stands up as one of her finest.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts 19 Feb 2013
I find Dervla refreshing in her determination and I admire the fact that she seems to have simplified her travel needs down to a regular supply of beer!
She seems to embrace discomfort and this seemed to me to be something she felt put her in common with people she met.

I have just returned from Cuba and I was one of the despised package tourists ,staying in a resort on Varadero. We could have had a lovely time without going outside the door but we took the trouble to do some research ,including Lonely Planet and "The Island that Dared" which I am now re-reading. We spent a few days in Havana and spoke to as many people as we could.
Obviously,we didn't get the same picture as Dervla and she doesn't wear rose tinted specs all the time but I did feel her own point of view slightly distorting.
What's wrong with people wanting to be able to afford treats for their children and to make their own lives slightly easier?

In order to round out her picture,she has lifted entire chunks from history books where a footnote would have sufficed so I simply started skipping the history pages.The book contains a comprehensive bibliography for reference.
I think Dervla is at her best where she records her encounters with her honesty and idiosyncratic viewpoint.
She paints a unique picture of an island with an uncertain future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Island that Dared 18 July 2011
Waking and shaking inside info on Cuba that we never seem to have heard about truthfully.
Dervla at her very best .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a revelation 10 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just back from my journey to Cuba, and this is fascinating - very well documented, as well as being full of personal insights and very readable - highly recommended!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Island That Dared - Journeys in Cuba 7 Mar 2009
This is a uniquely insightful book. Dervla Murphy's bravery, commitment, and personality enable her to form an intimate engagement with Cuba and its people in ways that very few travellers to that country could meaningfully achieve. The book is also impeccably researched and gives a rich history of Cuba's political, social and cultural contexts. Recently returned from a visit to Cuba, Dervla Murphy's writing was a gift of interpretation that illuminated everything I had observed but had been unable to properly understand while I was there. It made me want to go back there straight away. Whether or not a reader has a prior interest in Cuba, this is a wonderful read, and the Cuban 'experiment' becomes even more interesting and relevant in light of the current global economic crisis.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I have always enjoyed reading Dervla Murphy's books. I intend to visit Cuba and am thoroughly enjoying reading her book Island That dared; Journeys in Cuba.
Published 22 days ago by Elizabeth Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars A virtual trip to Cuba
Dervla Murphy writes a travel biography with such an easy style that you can imagine that you are there with her. Read more
Published 26 days ago by brookwoodsue
5.0 out of 5 stars The best travel writer
Although you get lots of information about the landscape, towns and interests of the places that Dervla Murphy visits the joy of reading her is to get a very personal reaction to... Read more
Published 1 month ago by acm
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and fascinating tale of Dervla Murphy's experiences as an...
Murphy visited Cuba with her daughter and grandchildren, then went back on her own to see more. She is a fiercely independent woman with strong - and well-founded - views on the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Fishpix2010
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuba
Hope to go to Cuba looking for word to reading this book the fack it kindle apelles to me kindle grate
Published 4 months ago by dez
5.0 out of 5 stars Journeys to CUBA
An absolutely amazing record of the true history and conditions in Cuba. A real eye opener for anyone that has
never understood the Castro regime. Read more
Published 6 months ago by pauline crawley
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey to Cuba
I took this book to Cuba a few weeks ago and it gave me excellent political background as well as recent social history facts. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Diane Hanley
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a Lady!
I really admire a lady who can just go off on their own and explore a foreign country. It's good to hear the stories of real people in Cuba and their experienses good or bad,minus... Read more
Published 6 months ago by primula
5.0 out of 5 stars the island that dared.
The writer takes you with her on the journey. I like the way she describes her experiences honestly and accurately as well as giving well researched background history. Read more
Published 7 months ago by jwmf
5.0 out of 5 stars The Island that Dared
A fine read it also reveals the authors thoughts on socialism. Murphy is a fiesty, strong lady as tough as old boots, Nothing on her Cuban trip seemed to phase her. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Julia O Connor
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