The Island That DaredSILVERLAND: A Winter Journey beyond the Urals


Publisher: John Murray
Published: 2006
Format: Paperback
ISBN:978-0719568299
Extent:320pp

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Silverland tells of Irish septuagenarian Dervla Murphy’s intrepid midwinter journey from Moscow to the Russian Far East.  She travelled by slow train through the world’s most desolate and beautiful mountain ranges to a remote land of lynx and elks, indigenous tribes and shamans, reindeer broth and taiga-berry pie.  While her less fortunate encounters included a bear and armed robbers, she was met with great hospitality by local people who openly shared their often difficult lifestories with her over samovars of sweet tea. 

'Indefatigable, indomitable, incredible.'  The Daily Mail

'Bewitchingly good and full of Irish charm.'  Mail on Sunday

'One of our most outstanding travel writers.'  Traveller

'Murphy’s caustic opinions make this book…Dervla Murphy is a free-thinking traveller, at once a romantic and a realist extraordinary for her determination to cross Eurasia at the age of 74 with only her walking sticks, a smattering of Russian … and gift for good crack.'  Sunday Telegraph

'Murphy returns to Russia in mid-winter to savour the true flavour of this vast country in its most characteristic season.  She describes with typical acuity the realities of life as a Russian peasant in the country’s remoter regions but also manages to convey something of the warmth of a Russian fireside welcome.  Fuelled by reindeer soup and taiga-berry pie, she undertakes a journey that is worth writing home about – and very well worth reading.'  The Good Book Guide

'The 74 year old, Dervla Murphy is a joy.  For her 21st travel book, she journeyed in winter to the far east of Russia.  Extreme cold and snow were too much even for this intrepid traveller, so she went by train … She took the (in)famous, 20mph, 2,125-mile-long Baikal-Amur Mainline… The story of its construction – over 60 years from 1933 by slaves from the labour camps and by prisoners-of-war is one theme of this richly textured book.  Another is environmental and social degradation…we should all listen to Murphy.  She has earned our eyes and hearts.' Ross Leckie, The Times

'Often lyrical in its descriptions of the icy expanses of Siberia, the glistening mountain ranges of the Russian far east and the tangy taste of taiga berries.  Yet there is so much more to this journey.  Travelling from Moscow through the Urals, primarily on the trans-continental BAM train, Murphy tells a story about contemporary Russia interlaced with social commentary and pithy historical research.  Silverland is a vast and complex landscape that takes in the rise of motorised sledges, the legacies of Stalin and the IMF’s “shock therapy” for the new Russia.  And dotted throughout are conversations with kindly strangers, vodka orphans, teenage dreamers and shrewd babushkas.  Murphy’s rich narrative is a joy to read, and an ideal Christmas present for the armchair traveller.'  The Guardian