Jim O'Donnell's Reviews > A Time of Gifts

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
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's review
Sep 13, 2011

it was amazing

At the same time that Byron was travelling across Central Asia, 18-year old Patrick Leigh Fermor set out from the Hook of Holland and walked all the way to Constantinople. This book takes him to the middle Danube. The second volume in the series, “Between the Woods and the Water” didn’t appear until 1986. The final installment has never shown up. Fermor died just this past June at the ripe old age of 96.

And yes, this is the Fermor who, ten years later, parachuted into Crete, disguised himself as a shepherd, captured General Kreipe and trundled him off to England.

Along the way, Fermor slept in barns and under bridges, in monasteries and as the guest of old-world landed gentry. The characters he meets are nearly circus-like and much of the prose quite picaresque. He saw a Europe now completely lost. A Europe destroyed by Hitler and the war.
Apparently, this book was not written until forty years after the journey. It seems that (and this could be apocryphal) Fermor lost his journal in Romania (after falling in love with a Greek princess and living in a windmill….). It was found and returned to him twenty some years later. The book that he wrote at the age of 58 instead of 18 was then full of reflection, erudite discussions of art, architecture, archaeology and history (real and not), his masterful use of the English language and a life of rich learning. It makes for a stunning read.

Another beautiful book.
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