The Island That DaredTALES OF TWO CITIES

Publisher: John Murray
Published:1987


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The Villa Cross was Dervla Murphy’s local pub in Handsworth, Birmingham, near the room she rented while she observed life in this most multiracial of our inner cities. Previously she had travelled in India, Nepal, Ethiopia (useful to recount to Rastas who think of it as their homeland) and Peru.  She probably never met as much hostility there, nor had more heartbreak to relate.  She was in Handsworth at the time of the 1985 riots … This unconventional book is better than any race-awareness course, both in exposing the way racism is built into British institutions, not to mention many British people, and in showing the diversity of the people whom we now call ethnic minorities, all with their own strengths ... One of her Rasta friends warning her about approaching trouble, said: ‘That day people won’t be thinking, only feeling.’.

'The great merit of this moving, often amusing book, is not that it offers many solutions but that it does enable us to understand that feeling.'  Sarah Preston, Financial Times

'Described as ‘travel of another sort’ Tales from Two Cities set in Bradford and Birmingham in the English Midlands is one of her most interesting and disturbing books.  It documents and explores the nature of prejudice.  It is not a comfortable book, and is frequently very depressing.  Miss Murphy, with her bike, lived in both cities in 1985.  The Handsworth race riots literally started on her doorstep … Tales from Two Cities is vivid, personal and opinionated reporting of the highest standard.  As Miss Murphy has lived in Pakistan, her unsentimental, pragmatic comparison of these immigrants is based on a rich understanding of their background and culture … Tales from Two Cities goes to the heart of racial politics in Britain.  It is a moving human, cautionary tale told by an inspired traveller.  You won’t read a stranger travel books this year.'
Mary Banotti, Irish Independent

'Not a comfortable read.  It is a disturbing, shocking thought-provoking account of one woman’s attempt to share at first-hand the experience of the residents (black, brown and white) of Britain’s multiracial communities…. One can only admire her confidence.  And her courage.'  The Daily Mail

'Insight, commonsense and compassion make this an outstanding book … Tales from Two Cities is reporting of a very high order: vivid, honest and punctiliously fair.  It seems likely that, for all the studies by ‘Whitey’, nobody quite of Dervla Murphy’s rank – that resilient inquiry, that dogged human affinity – has ever walked the broken glass of these particular streets.  The result is a book vibrating with immediacy and drama, and of serious value in the literature of race relations.'  Michael Viney, Irish Times

'Her sense of justice, like her courage, rises off the page like slow fire…I have read no other book that travels through this social and psychological landscape so vividly or brings the world of British Asians and Blacks so wonderfully and tragically alive.  And rarely have I seen the subtle combination of white tolerance and prejudice so relentlessly indicted.’ 
'Richard Holmes, The Times

'Many sections are naïve, while other sections are profoundly well-informed.  She writes about the Indian communities in Bradford and the Afro-Caribbean communities in Birmingham … Hers is the best general account I have read of the problems these two communities are confronted by.  For these insights alone the book is worth the price.'
Onye Wambu, The Voice