Last week I was thrilled to attend the launch of a very special book in Waterstones, Cork, Life at Full Tilt: The Selected Writings of Dervla Murphy. An anthology curated and edited by the wonderful Ethel Crowley, this stunning book gives every reader a fascinating and tantalising insight into Dervla Murphy’s exciting, and at times, rather dangerous life adventures.
There was a fantastic turnout at the launch, with Ethel speaking with great humour and clarity about her beautiful friendship with Dervla Murphy. We were also all treated to the premiere of a new song specifically written for Dervla Murphy, aptly entitled The Maverick, from the fabulous Fiona Kennedy.
[ About Life at Full Tilt: The Selected Writings of Dervla Murphy ]
Between these covers we follow in the slipstream of the indefatigable Irish travel writer Dervla Murphy (1931-2022). Here we find descriptions of her beloved Afghanistan from her 1963 masterpiece Full Tilt, with accounts from the Peruvian Andes, of bicycling in South and East Africa and most recently of the troubled territories of Palestine and Israel, published when she was eighty-five.
Editor Ethel Crowley has dug into the archive to unearth her first published journalism – about her cycle through Spain in 1956 when she was just twenty-four – and has selected extracts from each of the twenty-four books which were to follow.
Dervla’s style of travel, to go somewhere that interested her and see who she met, made for fresh encounters every day, recorded faithfully each evening in her journal. She read hungrily to prepare for her journeys and folded her learning seamlessly into her books. What shines through is her passionate engagement both with those she encountered and the injustices they faced, and, and her utter independence of mind.
With a preface by Colin Thubron
[ My Review ]
Life at Full Tilt: The Selected Writings of Dervla Murphy is edited by Ethel Crowley and was published, November 2nd, with Eland Publishing. Much has been said about the extraordinary life of Dervla Murphy, with Manchán Magan (Irish Times) describing her as ‘Ireland’s greatest travelling icon, our courageous, eloquent, world wanderer, whose seminal works of travel literature over five decades and four continents count as one of Ireland’s greatest literary achievements.’ In the foreword Colin Thubron, British travel writer and novelist, describes Dervla Murphy as ‘unique’ among her contemporaries stating that ‘few people, in any age, can have travelled a wider range of countries so arduously.’
Ethel Crowley was a great friend of Dervla Murphy’s and she considers this friendship ‘as one of the greatest gifts of her life’, resulting in this remarkable curation of work highlighting the exceptional nature of this unrelenting individual. Ethel approached Dervla about the possibility of putting together a curated selection of her writing, with extracts from across her portfolio of work. When Dervla’s health sadly failed, Ethel took over the baton completely and, with the support of Dervla’s family and publishers, lovingly created this stunning piece of work. Ethel was very conscious of choosing the extracts carefully so she established certain criteria to assist her.
‘I tried to ensure that each set of extracts reflected the spirit and
essence of each book and Dervla’s own character.’
Ethel has truly captured the essence of Dervla Murphy throughout. By dividing the book into sections, from the 1930s to the 2010s, the reader is provided with an outstanding overview into the unparalleled life of this wanderer and adventurer who brought people on the most phenomenal journeys from the comfort of their homes.
Dervla Murphy became a household name when she decided to travel to India from Ireland in the early 1960s on a bicycle, with her book Full Tilt, recounting her, at times, hair-raising adventure. Through the following years her travels took her across the globe, with her final journeys being to Gaza and Israel. Ethel Crowley looked back over most of Dervla Murphy’s work, which included twenty-four travel books, and pulled out a fascinating selection of excerpts, providing every reader with wondrous insights into the life of this unflagging and unconventional individual.
In her outstanding introduction, Ethel describes Dervla Murphy as ‘complex, a true maverick who existed outside of social and cultural expectations’. She goes on to say that Dervla travelled ‘on the edge of the edge itself’. It’s clear from Ethel’s words that she had a very personal friendship with Dervla and this book, this tribute is really something very special.
Dervla Murphy was witness to many world events, across politics and geography. Her bravery and strength live on through her work and through this new book, Ethel Crowley has done something magical. Ethel has brought Dervla Murphy back in focus and into the minds of a whole new generation who had probably never even heard of her! What struck me at the Cork launch was the number of people who were buying multiple copies, as gifts for parents, many who would remember Dervla’s explorations, but also for themselves and their friends.
Dervla Murphy was a real-life adventurer, an explorer and a campaigner against injustice who went beyond the reaches of most of her generation. Life at Full Tilt by Ethel Crowley is a superb anthology but it is also a true labour of love in acknowledgement of a very special friendship. A book for all seasons, a treat of a reading experience, Life at Full Tilt is a real gift to the world.
**I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Eland and Ethel Crowley for providing me with a copy of Life at Full Tilt. It is a book that I know I will return to often. Please note that all opinions are my own and 100% honest**
[ Bio ]
Ethel Crowley, PhD is an Irish sociologist with interests in feminism, global development and globalisation. She is the author of Land Matters, Daring to Dream and Your Place or Mine?
Over the years, she has combined university lecturing and academic writing with travels in Latin America, the Middle East and India.
She is currently writing about Spain. She considers her connection and friendship with Dervla Murphy to have been one of the greatest gifts of her life.
X ~ @ethelcrowley2