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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supergran does Cuba
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...
Published on 9 Dec. 2008 by Brian Phelan

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts
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...
Published 23 months ago by Jayne S.


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supergran does Cuba, 9 Dec. 2008
By 
Brian Phelan - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, 19 Feb. 2013
By 
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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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
By 
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A travelogue with depth and context, 8 April 2011
By 
E. Smith (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great woman, great history of modern Cuba, 10 Mar. 2010
By 
S. M. Smith "NeverHere" (Middlesbrough, UK) - See all my reviews
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I have now read several of Derlva's books, so am well used to her writing style. Factually, this is a comprehensive history of modern Cuba, mixed with a personal travelogue and a great passion for her subject matter. If you are interested in delving into pre and post revolution Cuba, then this book will give you all the facts you know, whilst painting a picture of the geography and culture of this fascinating island and it's stoical people. My only criticism is that it is a little laboured in parts, but the length of the book is worth the journey of understanding, especially if you have visited Havana or plan to tour the island. Those visitors that choose only to see Varadero get a distorted view of Cuban life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Flair and Conviction, 6 Jun. 2013
By 
Nico (Australia) - See all my reviews
This was the 1st Dervla Murphy book I have ever read and I am looking forward to reading more of her books in the future. It's part history, travelogue and political analysis. In the first half of the book Murphy travels with her daughter and three grand-daughters around various parts of Cuba. I have to say I wouldn't have thought reading about 3 generations of Irish women travelling together would be quite so interesting, but it works. Murphy has a sharp eye and a wonderful turn of phrase and describes the built and natural environment of Cuba beautifully. I Particularly enjoyed her descriptions of the Sierra Maestra mountains and wished I could walk through them. Her descriptions of Havana and Santiago de Cuba were also highly memorable.

Murphy peppers her account with relevant and interesting history about Cuba, be it the Spanish Colonial Period, the rise of Fidel and fall of Bastista or the bay of pigs. Of course Cuba's history is far more extensive than these few examples and Murphy covers it all well. It would be remiss of me not to mention politics when reviewing this book. Dervla Murphy nails her colours to mask very early on in the piece. She is a great admirer of Castro and his revolution and has contempt for the US Governments policy towards Cuba and it's continual demonisation of Cuba. Given the cold war ended over 20 years ago I think she probably has a far point. She is also less than enamoured on the whole with the Cuban ex-pat population in Florida. I don't necessarily agree with all of Murphy's analysis when it comes to Castro but she is at least consistent throughout.

This is an excellent travel book written with great flair and conviction. Murphy's not afraid to get stuck in, do the miles and have a cold beer at the end of the day.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An informative read, 8 Oct. 2009
By 
I visited Cuba in 2008 with a Fairtrade organisation and found it a fascinating place. I only wish I had read this book beforehand as it is so informative. There is plenty of the trademark Dervla Murphy wandering about on her own and bumping into people who provide insights into the contradictions inherent in Cuban society. For me there was a new twist in that daughter Rachel appears complete with grandchildren for part of the book. Dervla Murphy provides succinct and even handed accounts of Cuba's history and gives credit for its enormous achievements. She shows understanding of the less attractive elements explaining how much of this has been in defence of continued harrassment and attack from the USA, without excusing the less defensible. She provides detailed accounts of the US interference. She engages with Fidelistas and the Anti- Castro factions within and without Cuba when she visits Miami. All in all a worthwhile and engaging read from this wonderful author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a revelation, 10 April 2013
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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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what this was meant to be, 6 Oct. 2010
By 
Marand (Warwickshire) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
I have read a number of Dervla Murphy's books and, until now, I have always enjoyed them. I had expected a travel book, but what I found was a strange mixture of travelogue and pseudo-political analysis. It is important in a travelogue to put things in their political context but I think the travel element here was subsumed beneath the politics.

The book recounts three journeys to Cuba which took place over a couple of years, the first with her daughter and grandchildren, the second and third journeying solo. I have to say that I found the writing about the first journey very dull. I carried on reading in the hope that once freed of the 'family holiday' element the writing would pick up in pace and interest. Unfortunately for me it didn't. What did pick up was the level of political 'analysis' - although analysis is not really the right word for the polemical pro-Castro line. Frankly it read as pro-Castro propaganda, hopelessly one-sided, unsophisticated sub-A-level standard political analysis (I say this having studied Politics & later International Relations at university level). I am no friend of the US as regards its foreign policy and would broadly be described as left-leaning. I agree also that Cuba has achieved some positive things (health provision and education among them) and isn't the bogeyman that many in the US think it is, part of the axis of Evil, but you cannot just ignore the problematic elements of Castroism or brush them off as easily as Murphy does.

Unfortunately she repeatedly broaches some of the political issues relating to Cuba, and some of the economic & social issues that flow from Castroism, but then produces a usually very woolly, lightweight defence of Castroism or launches an attack on the West and on capitalism (Capitalism Rampant as she describes it). She refers to shortages of food, transport, resources to maintain housing, but seems unable, or maybe unwilling, to acknowledge that whilst some of these problems flow from the US blockade of Cuba, others (poor service, endless queuing & bureaucracy, surveillance by local members of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution) flow from Castroism itself.

I had to check myself sometimes to try & square the comments about shortages with the almost Utopian descriptions of Cuban life. At one point, discussing political dissenters who had been jailed, she wrote that she couldn't see why their activities were de-stabilising but then went on to say: "However, were such endeavours co-ordinated and sustained one can't estimate the likely island-wide effect." There was another place where I roared with laughter when she said there were no paedophiles in Cuba: "But I felt he was missing the point that Castroism had protected Cuba's population from the moral degradation promoted by Capitalism Rampant - admittedly at the cost of certain fundamental human rights." She also seems to accept that the internment of AIDS sufferers and HIV positive residents in facilities initially run by the military was justified.

I found it very odd that Murphy, as a writer, did not rage against restrictions on free expression - if Castroism is as strong and truly supported by Cubans as she claims then the regime would have no need to worry about dissenting voices. Sometimes I had the feeling that even Murphy had doubts about what she was saying. Just a few pages before the end of the book she writes: "Yet I had no easy answer for those (well-disposed towards Castroism) who anxiously asked, 'How can the Cubans change their government?' Even now most of us regard this as democracy's acid test, though for decades its significance has been diminishing as all major political parties fall into line behind their corporate controllers." Clearly she recognises the problem of there being no way of changing the government but just flunks the answer by turning it, yet again, into an opportunity to bash the West (or the Minority World, the term she frequently prefers) and to imply that Cuban 'democracy' is not so bad.

You may think it odd that I have concentrated on the political discussion but having just finished the book, all that I can remember was the turgid prose and dubious political analysis. Frankly the book could easily have been edited down by at least 100 pages (to around 300 pages in stead of just over 400) by cutting out just some of the tedious political material. I might then have enjoyed it more.
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Island that Dared: Journeys in Cuba
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