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The Traveller

In Ethopia With a Mule - Dervla Murphy

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When it comes to female travel writers Dervla Murphy would probably rank in the top ten, if not the top five. Time was if you mentioned you liked reading the odd travel book the first thing people would say was, 'Have you read Dervla Murphy?' Well, no I hadn't and I'm not really sure why. Avoiding her just to be perverse I think. So, In Ethiopia With a Mule (written in the late 60s) was my first foray into the Irish writer's many travel books and, strange to say, I'm actually thinking this may not be her best book. It wasn't that I hated it... I think it was just too much of the same all the way through. She climbed mountains in the highlands of Ethiopia and she stayed in villages with the natives. Over and over. There wasn't an awful lot more to it than that. It was nicely written with a few amusing and pointed observations and also some beautiful descriptions. The poor mule, Jock, I felt very sorry for, soft-hearted fool that I am. And there were one or two adventures on the way - she was robbed several times for instance - which livened it up a bit. So I don't know why I'm not brimming with praise for this 'not bad' book but somehow or other I found it lacking. A quick mosey round her books on Amazon informs me that she's been all over the place, Peru, Siberia, the Indian subcontinent, South Africa, some of which sound a bit more interesting so I will definitely see if the library has any of those and give them a try. I'm not willing to give up on Dervla Murphy just yet.


It's probably quite difficult to get hold of, but I really rate 'Tales From Two Cities' by Dervla Murphy. It's not really a travel book - Murphy spends time in Bradford and Birmingham, and is mainly concerned with race relations in those two cities. A real eye-opener, albeit in an overwhelmingly depressing way :-/
Yes, I'm convinced I haven't read the best of Dervla Murphy yet so will note the one you've mentioned and watch out for it. I also picked up the S. African one at the library so will try that as well.
I was devoted to travel books when I was a teenager, but the only one of Murphy's I remember in any detail is Full Tilt. It really stayed with me.
Which country is Full Tilt set in? Do you read much in the way of travel books now?
She cycled from Ireland to India, something one couldn't do now but which was still possible when I read the book. The Babusar Pass was my favourite bit.

I don't often read contemporary travel books; I prefer the old stuff--Isabella Bird Bishop, Freya Stark, Wilfred Thesiger. That sort of thing. Now and then I find something new and wonderful, like Gretel Ehrlich's books or Pico Iyer's. I want to read more travel books but I just don't seem to manage it.
Have made a note of Full Tilt, thanks for that.

Isabella Bird Bishop I've read some of but not Freya Stark. Keep meaning to and now I actually want to the library doesn't keep them. I've noted the other two who I've not heard of so I shall investigate.
Ehrlich writes more than just travel books. I love her style and her perceptions. She also writes about really cool places (cool in both senses).
I've just been looking on Amazon - there are some seriously interesting books by Ehrlich there. Always interested in cold places. Will cogitate some more on this.