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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,037 ratings  ·  156 reviews
Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was a war hero whose exploits in Crete are legendary, and above all he is widely acclaimed as the greatest travel writer of our times, notably for his books about his walk across pre-war Europe, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water; he was a self-educated polymath, a lover of Greece and the best company in the world.

Artemis C
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published October 11th 2012 by John Murray (first published September 29th 2012)
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Petra X is in CitizenM, Boston, coolest hotel ever
Patrick, or Paddy (as he was always called) really lived his life exactly as he wanted to. Nothing stopped him, not age, not war, not lack of money. He had adventures, captured a German officer, killed a Greek man by not knowing his gun was loaded, had an affair with a Balkan princess and smoked, drank and womanised all to excess. Whatever Paddy wanted to do, Paddy did. And then he wrote about it in 21 books earning him the title of, "Britain's greatest living travel writer". I don't know about ...more
Update January 15, 2018: In my review of this biography and in comments, I had discussed that we needed a biography of Joan Leigh Fermor, PLF's wife and an amazing photographer and traveller in her own right. I'm happy to note that there is finally a biography of JLF -- Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor by Simon Fenwick. I just ordered it, so fingers crossed that it will be good!

Patrick Leigh Fermor seems to have led a charmed life. He died
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read, travel
For the PLF fan. Others will be better served by reading his works first. For the fan, this fills in the cracks, but I think you end up liking him a little less. What’s charming in an 18-year old afoot is less so in a middle-aged perennial mooch with writer’s block. Still, he was a wonderful writer and obviously provided value received; the author (who was one of the charmed) does an excellent job of presenting both sides. He also knew how lucky he was.
Nov 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC radio listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
An interesting read and a well written biography. Certainly worth the time of any one who admires the written words of Patrick Leigh Fermor. A book in two halves for me though. The excitement of the youthful walk and the Cretan WW2 adventures was captivating. The final half that consisted of upper middle class bludgeing ( a fine Australian word to describe a life of "Using" others) was a little too overbearing for my tastes. Is Leigh Fermor one of the best writers I have ever read? Absolutely. W ...more
For PLF, when aged about six, it was a book of stories on the legendary Robin Hood, together with his mother’s noted talent to ‘make things fun or memorable’, which unlocked the vast delights of the world of reading to him (p.13). His mother clearly had an eye for the unusual when she translated ’It’s a Long Way To Tipperary’ into Hindustani. Her young son, unsurprisingly, was infected with the same spirited playful zest for language. He translated ‘Widdecombe Fair’ and ‘D’ye ken John Peel’ into ...more
Jim Coughenour
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'd never heard of Patrick Leigh Fermor before I picked up the NYRB edition of A Time of Gifts at the end of 2005 – and I was bedazzled. I can't better Artemis Cooper's description of the book:
eleven chapters of writing that had been built up, layer upon layer, over the years… so folded over one another, so detailed in some passages and so deliberately blurred in others, uproariously funny one minute and burrowing into the bowels of historical conjecture the next, that the book reads like a jour
Nov 06, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I met and briefly talked with Artemis Cooper tonight after her reading for this book. Classy lady, attractive, eloquent. Got her to sign my book and told her Paddy is a personal hero. A good evening all around.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Artemis Cooper’s biography, Patrick Leigh Fermor; An Adventure may not be an authorized biography, but it is certainly a friendly one. Ms. Cooper had first met Fermor decades before via her parents who were his longtime friends. She freely admits she had had a crush on Mr. Fermor since she was seventeen. Whatever her credentials as a biographer, and historian her take on Fermor is as an insider and friend. That aside she has written a very readable, well researched and intelligent biographer on ...more
Alastair Kerr
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it
A book that in parts I enjoyed and in parts found tedious. The author's enthusiasm for the subject is clear and he is treated very sympathetically throughout. For big fans of his writing and those who knew him this book is wonderful. As a relative stranger to his work there were sections I found bewildering. There is an assumption that the reader already has some knowledge of the subject.

The book leaps in places and crawls in others. Pages are spent on a single evening in a tavern and a similar
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
Although I have read and liked Patrick Leigh Fermor's writing for many years, I was disappointed in this biography. There was way too much information about what seemed like every minute of his long life. "Paddy" was a wonderful writer, obviously enjoyed his fun and had a fair amount of it, quite a man with the ladies, knew how to get along with and get treated generously by rich friends - but I didn't need to know quite so many details. Having read his writing about experiences during the War i ...more
Faith McLellan
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, travel
A lovely biography of an extraordinary man. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Two of my favorite bits--among many--from this book. A quote from one of his friends: "Wouldn't it be lovely if Paddy came in pill-form, so you could take one whenever you felt depressed."

And this note, which Paddy wrote in a book he was reading when he felt his end was near: "Love to all and kindness to all friends, and thank you for a life of great happiness."

What a blessing to be able to write that!
Duane Dunkerson
Remembering Patrick Leigh Fermor, as done by Pearson and Macfarlane (Patrick Leigh Fermor:An Adventure by Artemis Cooper)

Remembering Patrick Leigh Fermor benefits from an appreciation in The Guardian online, or it is more like a white-hot tribute to Fermor by Allison Pearson in meeting with Artemis Cooper, author of a very recent biography of Fermor. Also from The Guardian online, the same biography is recommended by Robert Macfarlane. Fermor was their hero, whose touchstone was WWII and Fermo
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2013
Until I heard this book on Radio 4's Book of the Week, their non fiction book slot, I had never heard of Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Cooper has written a comprehensive and sensitive biography about Fermor. He was a very talented writer, most famous for a travel books, and in particular for one on a walk across Europe in-between the wars. He wrote about other countries, and numerous articles. He was a very complex character, troubled in lots of ways, and carefree in others. The people he met either jell
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A most unusual character whom I could best describe as Bohemian. Patrick, commonly called Paddy, was educated in England in the 1920's-1930's. His father who lived in India, was distanced by both geography and emotion, and he also divorced`Paddy's mother. Add to that his disapproval of Paddy's interest in languages and literature rather than maths and science, so it is little wonder that Paddy, at 18, decided to set off on his own to trek overland from England to Turkey and record his adventures ...more
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-read
The biography hardly rises to the level of literature. The prose is lacking in style and overstuffed with the names of bit players and walk-ons in the life of a complex and interesting writer. Nevertheless, Artemis Cooper has rendered a valuable service to those who love the prose of Fermor by creating a timeline of his literary output. The book is more homage to a friend than objective assessment of the life and writings of a creative and unique writer. I read this as background for his monumen ...more
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Biography by Artemis Cooper charting the extraordinary life story of the celebrated travel writer and war hero. Read by Samuel West.
Elsbeth Kwant
A wonderful complement to the trilogy of Fermors epic walk to Constantinople. It puts his life into perspective and shows what a relatively short transitionary moment the travel was.

I will never be able to think about Transsylvania withouth Dervla Murphy's description of it ('a one-word poem').

Fermor was larger than life, causing his friends to wish to be able to take him in pill-form, against depression. Also the anecdote that he didn't really take in the fall of France, because he was writin
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of lives lived large
Never was a book so aptly titled. Cooper's overview of Leigh Fermor's great hike from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople vividly brought those books back to me, and she does an equally good job of evoking the themes of his later travels, the books he wrote much earlier. Paddy lived an amazing, charmed life, even if it did cause Somerset Maugham to dismiss him as "that middle-class gigolo for upper class-women" (Paddy had drunkenly, and unwillingly, and repeatedly, and unforgivably, made fun o ...more
Daniel Bowden
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Although this book was given to me by a good friend, I have to say it wasn’t my favorite read. I found Paddy to be an interesting character, and surely to have lived an adventurous life, but the details of his travels were too painstakingly distracting. I felt as if I couldn’t dive deeply into the book and come to fully understand the greatness of his life due to the minute irrelevant details that occurred too often. I might rather read some of his own accounts of his travels.
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor and was so inspired by the experience that I went straight onto this biography. I already know that feeling inspired by "Paddy" (as everyone knew him) is a common reaction to his work and readers frequently become in thrall to this amazing man, as did most of those who met him in life.

On the off chance the name Patrick Leigh Fermor is new to you, as it was to me until recently, in addition to being one of the great prose writers of the 20th century,
oh a wonderful bio for us fermor lovers. see kris's super review for a full explanation

so we learn the scoop of why paddy got kicked out of school and started his journey on foot to istambul in 1930, why he only spent a few days in the city that was his seemingly raison, then lived with a princess in Moldavia (sp?) (hers is such a tragic story, after the nazis got done mauling her, the communists took over and took every thing from her family, not saying
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the type of book that I had hoped Hemingways Boats was going to be(and most certainly wasn't:see my review)I had never heard of Paddy until I picked up this book.

The author captures a unique spirit here. The book follows Paddys life chronologically from his fostering on a farm to his troubled school days, to his walk across Europe and his time in pre-war Roumania. Its covers his war times escapades including the madcap kidnapping of a German general on Crete and their bonding(they were
Jul 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I loved the Patrick Leigh Fermor's books I've read so far and this biography appealed to me. For the most part I found it an enjoyable insight into a quite remarkable life. He really comes over as a man out of his time - his approach to life would have been a great one even if he had been born in almost any previous century. He was a real explorer, exceptionally well read with enormous knowledge of areas that interested him. His early life was a little difficult however once he started exploring ...more
David Stuart Ryan
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I rather envy any reader who has not yet embarked upon the glories of Patrick Leigh Fermor's two books about his pre-war travels in Europe - 'A Time of Gifts' and 'Between the Woods and the Water'.

Artemis Cooper has done a great job in helping to explain why 'Paddy' was such a gripping and informative writer, he not only wrote about life, he actually lived it. To the utmost.

The immensely long gestation time for his books about his youthful travels is at least partly explained by his distractions
David Stone
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a superb biography of a man who decided to take a walk when he was a teenager and then managed to live off the adventure for the rest of his life. And when he was posted to Greece during World War II as a result of the languages he learned on his walk, he kidnapped a German general and became the most celebrated Englishman in Greece since Lord Byron. Cooper nicely maps Paddy's walk across Europe, as well as his struggles to write about it decades afterwards. If anything, she undersells F ...more
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Cooper does a great job condensing The Walk to Constantinople into 3-4 chapters, which saves you slogging through his wordy, overly-lyrical books. Don't get me wrong, I love--the idea and the romance of--the man, and the Mani (probably his best book) but his writing is often too much of a good thing, which it seems he was like in person, as well. This is a fascinating, loving, yet not uncritical biography of a traveler as well as his unconventional marriage and relationships.
PLF's mo
Jun 19, 2013 added it
They don't make 'em like Paddy anymore. Writer, traveller and polymath. He spoke five languages fluently including Greek and Rumanian and became, for all intents and purposes, Greek, living more than half of his life in Greece. Cooper covers all possible ground here giving the flavour of his walk across Europe, his enormous curiosity, wealth of knowledge on all manner of things and enormous circle of friends. Intrigued to find out that his great trek which led to the books 'A Time of Gifts' and ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
I so wanted to like this book. I love the subject of this bio and his books on this walk from Belgium to Istanbul in 1933-4. And I did like all the background information about his life. But ultimately I found this book very pedestrian. The author failed to really get inside the subjects mind to see what drove him. Maybe he was all hail fellow well met traveler, but I sense that he was a depressive and that there is just not enough depth to this portrait. A real pity. Not badly written but perha ...more
Susan Wester
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For those of you who have read Patrick Leigh Fermor's account of his walk across Europe in 1932 when he was 18 years old this is a wonderful biography of the author. Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was a war hero whose exploits in Crete are legendary, and above all he is widely acclaimed as the greatest travel writer of our times, notably for his books about his walk across pre-war Europe, 'A Time of Gifts' and 'Between the Woods and the Water'; he was a self-educated polymath, a lover of Greec ...more
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She is the only daughter of the second Viscount Norwich and his first wife, Anne (née Clifford), and a granddaughter of Lady Diana Cooper. She has a brother, the Hon. Jason Charles Duff Bede Cooper, and a half-sister, Allegra Huston, the only child of Lord Norwich and Enrica Soma Huston, the estranged wife of American film director John Huston. She attended the French Lycee, the Convent of the Sac ...more

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“One has to imagine the impact of Paddy on an old count from eastern Europe, barely able to live off his much-diminished lands and keep the roof on a house stocked with paintings and furniture that harked back to better days. His children might take a certain pride in their ancient lineage, but they also made it clear that the world had moved on and they planned to move with it. Then a scruffy young Englishman with a rucksack turns up on the doorstep, recommended by a friend. he is polite, cheerful, and cannot hear enough about the family history. He pores over the books and albums in the library, and asks a thousand questions about the princely rulers, dynastic marriages, wars and revolts and waves of migration that shaped this part of the world. He wants to hear about the family portraits too, and begs the Count to remember the songs the peasants used to sing when he was a child. Instead of feeling like a useless fragment of a broken empire, the Count is transformed. This young Englishman has made him realize that he is part of living history, a link in an unbroken chain going back to Charlemagne and beyond.” 1 likes
“Paddy explained his increasingly wild behaviour as ‘A bookish attempt to coerce life into a closer resemblance to literature’,” 0 likes
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