I finished another road book in Nantes. Emma and I exchanged books when she visited me in Israel; my copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for her copy of Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. I found the book enjoyable, well-written, and an excellent traveling companion. Dervla Murphy very literally rode her bicycle from Ireland to India in 1963, and kept a daily journal of her adventures. When she got back she cleaned the writing up a little and published it.
I enjoy memoirs, but this is far more personal. This is the transcription of a diary, and necessarily includes more detail than a memoir ever could. It’s also fairly dated. At times I found it difficult to see past the blatant Orientalism, and broad, sweeping generalizations about the native people of some of the countries she passed through. Murphy didn’t censer herself when writing out her thoughts, and you’ll find some very questionable “facts” presented as truths. She even warns the reader in the Introduction that not everything she writes about is true, only true as she saw it, from a fairly uninformed perspective.
Problematic content aside, it’s a very well-written account of a truly amazing journey. Murphy writes about getting attacked by wolves, nearly dying of heatstroke, frostbite, and dehydration, and navigating some of the most inhospitable landscapes in the world all on the same trek. Her descriptions of the landscape, obvious enjoyment of her own experience, and humourous voice make the book a thoroughly enjoyable read. It also put my own trip into perspective – there’s no way I’ll ever have to face the kind of hardships she pushed through! If she can ford a glacial river by holding onto a swimming cow, I can probably make it a half a kilometer to the train station.
4/5 stars ****