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Wheels within Wheels: Autobiography [Hardcover]

Dervla Murphy
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Sep 1979

An honest and witty first-hand account of the extraordinary life of one of our best-loved, award-winning travel writers.

Dervla tells of her early life in Lismore, Co. Waterford, in her rather unusual household. Her father was the county librarian and her mother a chronic invalid. An only child, Dervla was allowed from the age of seven to freely roam on her own. At ten, she cycled ten miles to a local mountain, climbed it, then lost herself on the way down, and was forced to stay out all night – much to the distress of her parents.

Dervla’s life has always been eventful – living in a house that was crumbling around their ears, she reveals how her family hid a Republican who was later hanged, how she tested herself (with hot water) to increase her pain threshold, how she avoided an insane and shrieking maid, who was convinced that Dervla’s parents were fried eggs, and how she helped another maid give birth under the kitchen table.

An early love of books and writing led her to enter a writing competition arranged by a local newspaper, and she won first prize for five weeks in a row. Encouraged to leave school at the age of fourteen to nurse her mother, she portrays the strain that her mother’s increasing illness had on the family, and the resulting breakdown in family relationships in a characteristically calm and objective way.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd; First Edition edition (20 Sep 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719536499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719536496
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 982,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

Dervla Murphy's account of her first thirty years lived for the most part within a thirty-mile radius of Lismore, Country Waterford is suffused with characteristic honesty, humour, courage and her irrepressible blend of unconventionality, energy and zest for life.

She tells of her hobby of collecting bones to from her own Identical skeleton; how on her tenth birthday she was given a second-hand bicycle and atlas and resolved to cycle to India; how she set off to the Knockmealdown mountains, most herself on the descent and contracted pleurisy; how she relinquished her early diet of Biggles and Sherlock Holmes to devour the literary greats, only numerically being defeated by the Trollopes; and how at twelve she won a first prize of seven-and-sixpence in an essay competition in the Cork Weekly Examiner with 'Picking Blackberries'.

Later, she tells of being kidnapped in Paris, and returning home across the Pyrenees with twelve large bottles of brandy rolled up in her sleeping bag. Finally, she cycles from Dunkirk to New Delhi, her experiences spawning her first books, 'Full Tilt' and 'Tibetan Foothold'.

'I relish immensely her energy, her humour and the compassionate eyes with which she regards the world… you feel at the end of the book that some understanding of life has been added to your personality.'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Dervla Murphy was born in County Waterford, Ireland, of Dublin parents in 1931. Since 1964 she has been regularly publishing descriptions of her journeys by bicycle or on foot in the remoter areas of four continents. She has also written about the problems of Northern Ireland, the hazards of the nuclear power industry and race relations in Britain.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An autobiography! 11 May 2001
By A Customer
If you have read several books by Dervla Murphay this book will give an insight into her life. It is not so much about travelling but life and growing up tough! Worth reading once you have read a few other travel books (especially Full Tilt) by Dervla Murphy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Education and a Pleasure 17 Jun 2011
This is a wonderful book when seen from any one of a number of different angles. It is a witty and captivating autobiography; an account of life in a loving, but very, very odd family; a slice of Irish history and society in the early 20th Century; an entirely original, 'coming-of-age' story; and the tale of the making of a cyclist and one of our most treasured travel writers. In this review I will concentrate on this last angle.

Dervla Murphy started cycling as a very young girl in rural Ireland. From the start she instinctively saw her bike as a vehicle to transport her to freedom. At 10 she took on her first 50 mile round trip: armed with an emergency £1 from a doting, but controlling mother, to pay for an hotel room if she should be exhausted on her arrival at the half way point. Soon, she was taking on 120 mile days in the high sierra in Spain, overloaded with gear and luggage: she makes the point that learning that a medium rucksack can support a 6 month trip is a lesson that takes time to sink in. In this sense all her early trips seem a preparation for her truly ground-breaking trip from Ireland to India, the account of which she would publish as, 'Full Tilt' - the book that secured her reputation as exceptional cyclist, woman and writer alike.

However, all these early trips share a common background in her extraordinary relationship with her parents and wider family. Her father was an Irish nationalist, rural librarian and scholar - and an auto-dydact for sure. Her mother was equally able and intellectual, but increasingly debilitated by a series of crippling illnesses. From both parents came a love of books and music: from her father a other-worldliness and a determination to write and from her mother a steely determination to prevail and to be practical.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book... 10 July 2009
..for many reasons, there's more to it, but firstly because it renewed my love for books. The "Tale of Papa's Trousers" was inspirational. I've hunted, purchased and read most of the books mentioned in the text. I have found a single volume Sismondi - the 10 volume I still hope to find.
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4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD READ 26 April 2014
By bub
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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