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The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos

(Trilogy #3)

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  951 ratings  ·  163 reviews
In the winter of 1933 eighteen-year-old Patrick (“Paddy”) Leigh Fermor set out to walk across Europe, starting in Holland and ending in Constantinople, a trip that took him the better part of a year. Decades later, when he was well over fifty, Leigh Fermor told the story of that life-changing journey in A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, two books now cel ...more
Hardcover, 362 pages
Published September 12th 2013 by John Murray Publishers Ltd (first published September 2013)
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4.23  · 
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This posthumous volume may be the most emotionally satisfying of the three works comprising the trilogy, which describe the eighteen-year-old author's year-long journey by foot along the Danube in 1934-35. (The first volume was A Time of Gifts and the second, Between the Woods and the Water. See my reviews on both of these.) It's astounding we even have it. The editors have taken several of PLF's unfinished manuscripts and pieced them into a convincing semblance of a third volume.

This volume is
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The final volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s trilogy of the Great Trudge, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, begins with a rearriving at the Danube at the Iron Gates and ends, like the continent of Europe herself, shattered in fragments along the shores of the Black Sea. The book was not completed when Paddy died in 2011, and the broken road of this broken text falls into shards of diary entries, barely hinting at his time in the great city that was the goal of his youthful wandering, and ...more
"The bravura passage we miss is a description of Istanbul – a capriccio of Constantinople's ruins...I like to imagine him taken up by the trilogy's culminating noctambulistic smart set, the highest-spirited and most sensuously erudite of the entire journey. After a day lazing in the host's library, hungover yet casually assimilating the corpus of orientalisme, especially relishing Gautier's and Nerval's accounts of the city, he joins and exhorts whiskey-sprung, lantern-lit hijinks in the spooky ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I heard of Patrick Leigh Fermor's death three years ago, I felt a sense of loss -- not only because "Paddy" was the greatest travel writer of our time -- but because now he would never finish the trilogy that began with The Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. Fortunately, I was wrong. His friends Colin Thubron (no mean travel writer himself) and Artemis Cooper took Paddy's notes and came up with The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos which continued the author's ...more
Σωτήρης  Αδαμαρέτσος
Το τρίτο μέρος της τριλογίας του ΠΛΦ του ταξιδιού του στην Ευρώπη το 1934-1935. Ξεκίνα στην Βουλγαρία όπου μπαίνει από τον Δούναβη και μετά από ένα πέρασμα στο Βουκουρέστι, κυλάει προς την Κωνσταντινουπολη δίπλα στα νερά της Μαύρης Θάλασσας. Ένα ημιτελές έργο που δημοσιεύτηκε μετά θάνατον και κλείνει με το κομμάτι της παραμονής του κ περιήγησης στο Αγιο Όρος το χειμώνα του 35.
Η ανάγνωση του έργου αυτού, των τριών τόνων, αποτέλεσε μια αποκάλυψη για μενα στο βαθμό που η Ιστορία παραμένει το κύριο
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is not often that you encounter trilogies outside fiction, but this book is the final volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor's journey from the Hook of Holland to the exotic Constantinople. He begun the walk in 1933, just shy of his 18th birthday, but never actually got around to writing the first book in the 1970’s and the second volume in the mid 1980’s. He had started on the manuscript for this, the final book, but sadly died before it could be completed. Thankfully Artemis Cooper, friend and biog ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When the renowned British author and travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor died in 2011 at the age of 96, he left incomplete his trilogy describing his two-year walk (1933-35) across Europe from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople and into Greece when he was in his late teens. The first two books were written a few decades after the events described, but this final volume was left unfinished, existing in various stages of completion, some parts nearly done and others still in diary form. Shortly ...more
Lyn Elliott
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully interesting compilation of Fermor's carefully crafted memoir of this last section of his great walk, together with extracts from one of his surviving daily journals and introduced brilliantly by editors Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper.
I preferred his journal entries: more direct, much less overwriting and capturing moments with shining intensity. Perhaps it is that these cover the time when he was visiting monasteries on Mount Athos, where the detailed record builds to give an unf
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as beautiful as the first two volumes, which Fermor had written in full and lovingly remembered detail. This book has been pulled together from some earlier work he had done on this last part of the journey to Istanbul, but then put aside, breaking off in mid sentence. The last 100 pages or so are from his diary describing his time on Mount Athos in Greece, which was interesting to read but were the notes of a very young man written at the time, rather than the polished memories of the matur ...more
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who realize that the journey is the destination
And so we reach the end: Patrick Leigh Fermor, fetching up at the British Consulate at Burgas, a stone's throw away from his stated goal of Constantinople, reeking of pastourma (basically, highly spiced camel jerky), the part of his journey most "amply covered in the intermittent journal so strangely recovered, two and a half decades after I had lost it and long after embarking on this book."; and here the narrative ends, in mid-sentence, as the nonagenarian Leigh Fermor finally runs out of stam ...more
Final third of narrative of walk to Constantinople ends in mid-sentence, half-way down the Bulgarian coast. He never completed it; this copy was created from dusty notes. One can tell the point about half way though where PLF stopped revising--requiring his literary executors to print a only rough draft. Interesting--but by no means on par with volumes one and two. What's especially missing are the romances that so spiced up earlier books (though there's at least one hint). But what's especially ...more
Feb 14, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, memoir, travel
Put into context and admiringly reviewed by Daniel Mendelsohn at NYRB:

"Precisely because its author didn’t have time to bring his text to its usual level of high and elaborate polish, this final work—plainer, more straightforward, less elaborate, and more frank than its predecessors—provides some intriguing retrospective insights into Leigh Fermor’s distinctive tics and mannerisms, strengths and weaknesses."

Once done with that you must read William1's rev
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, travel
Finishing Patrick Leigh Fermor's The Broken Road was a melancholy experience for me. I so enjoyed all three books of this wonderful trilogy, and of which Broken Road is the last, that I felt like I was taking leave of a dear friend. It is not just that both Leigh Fermor and the world he tramped through in the mid 1930s are irrevocably gone, it is also that I fear his mode of erudite description and gentle observation are gone too. In a review of Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Life in Letters Ben Downin ...more
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Do you ever hear of something and think 'I wish I could of done that?' I had exactly such a moment when I first heard of Patrick Leigh Fermor, and it has lived with me ever since. In 1933 at the age of 18 he set off to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. Many years later he wrote about his experiences, first in A Time of Gifts (1977), then in Between the Woods and the Water (1986) which took his journey to the Bulgarian border. And then a long silence, for Leigh Fermor was a perfect ...more
Suzi Stembridge
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Some books are so beautiful that one's reading pace is slowed to make the pleasure last the longer. One such book, The Broken Road, stands alone from the rest of Patrick Leigh Fermor's work, and Paddy hesitated to finish it not slowed by pleasure but by the enormity of working with seven decades of memory. Paddy's other work I have read often, at least twice, given to pausing by the sheer density of the material. This book is different. The scholarship, the elegant turn of phrase, the crafted pi ...more
And so it ends - after reading A time of gifts, and Between the woods and the water, it was with some sadness that I finally finished this, the third and last instalment describing Fermor's 1934 walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople.

Fermor famously spent many years honing the prose for this magisterial trilogy, with - almost as famously - writer's block allegedly stopping him from finishing this third and final instalment. So what we have here is a blessing, and a very interesting insi
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was expecting the last book in our hero's great walk to be not as exciting as his previous tomes. In fact this was as riveting as any previous and I put that down to a need by me as the reader, to not only know what was happening next but again be dragged into the beautiful and romantic text. When we get cut of at mid sentence short of the intended target and then get only few diary excerpts of the intended destination I was taken aback. But, in what can be but a credit to the publishers, the ...more
Transported me to a place and time that is no longer possible to visit anywhere else but in works such as this. Patrick Leigh-Fermor is the master. The chapter Dancing By The Black Sea is as good as anything he ever wrote. I could hear the music, see the dancers feel time stand still with Paddy as the Mangas-inspired fisherman danced rebitiko. It was with a deep sense of loss that I closed the book after reading the last page; no more new PLF to experience. Let the re-reading commence.
Nate Jacobsen
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I am unaware of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s other exploits or writings outside of the context of this trilogy, enabling me to review it in a vacuum; advantageous for clarity’s sake but perhaps a little distorted in perception to those familiar with the bigger picture of his life.

I arbitrarily picked up ‘A Time of Gifts’, the first volume in the series, several years ago in a local bookstore. My first attempt reading it I foundered in the thesaurus-enthused proliferation of flowery language that accom
S.P. Moss
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
The road in the title is that taken by Patrick Leigh Fermor in the third leg of his ‘Great Trudge’ made as a young man in the 1930s. His travels take him from the Iron Gates and through Bulgaria, with a diversion back into Romania and Bucharest, then onwards along the coast of the Black Sea. The road breaks – in a literary sense – somewhere just before Constantinople/Istanbul, and is resumed with a tour of Mount Athos.

The book is classic Patrick Leigh Fermor, describing a polymath’s perambulatio
the third in fermor's famous trilogy of walking from uk to turkey in 1933-35. though he actually wrote most of this 3rd one first (see the fascinating introduction by colin thubron and artemis cooper) and this portion of his walk, bulgaria, rumania (north to north moldavia?), back to bulgaria, finally finally to 'istambul", then to the 'holy mountain' athos in greece for an extended stay in many of the monasteries there (this taken from his only surviving journal, not the actual book he was writ ...more
Alex Sarll
After A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water took us through most of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s 1930s walk across Europe, as far as the Iron Gate, here is an approximation of the concluding volume which he spent the last quarter-century of his life not finishing. This is not quite as ridiculous as it sounds; the first two books also came out decades after the journey they describe, and derive part of their power from that gap. Partly this is because of the way Fermor spent the interveni ...more
Richard Newton
A book of wonderful parts, but incomplete at the authors death. The first 200 pages are very good, and unlike some of the other reviewers I like the author's open comments at points that he does not remember certain parts of the journey. This increases the poignancy of a work about a world that no longer exists written by a witness who cannot reliably remember.

But it is incomplete and this cannot be ignored. I also felt at times the very sensitive editing was let down by inclusion of less relev
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Finally after waiting over 30 years the final volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor great three volume epic of his walking from Belgium to Istambul in 1933-4. Not as good as the other two volumes which the author had polished to his satisfaction. The last volume was held back by writers block or maybe publishing block. It was pieced together after his death from his manuscripts and old versions of the story. So not as gripping as Time of Gifts or Between Woods and Waters but still a great read.
This conclusion to the three part saga of Fermor's epic walk across Europe forms a fitting tribute to the late writer. Like the previous two parts (A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water) it is an entertaining mixture of picaresque adventure and erudite travelogue. Although the book was incomplete at the time of Fermor's death, what remains is in keeping with the earlier books.
Carey Combe
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
So good to have the final book and, although not as polished as the first two, was a joy to read
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: european
It's some months now since I finished the third part of Patrick Leigh Fermor's trilogy about walking across Europe and I've been trying to get to do a review ever since. This was a re-reading, and I was prepared this time not to enjoy it as much as I did the first two books. PLF didn't finish editing it; he laid it aside years ago and left it for other people to fit together after he died. Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper have done what they could, piecing together uncorrected text written in th ...more
Ellis Knox
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This is the third of the three volumes that recount Fermor's walk from London to Istanbul. It's the weakest of the three books, which still leaves it stronger than any other twenty books I've read over the past decade.

The work is in two parts, though not presented that way. The first is the longer, which Fermor wrote well after the first two volumes. The reason for the delay of two decades remains unknown, but there's a distinct difference in tone here, and that difference is the reason for kno
Kevin Darbyshire
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have really enjoyed all this trilogy but feel that the first in the series was probably the best. I really love the sections in the books when the author is writing about the journey from his diaries written on the actual journey. This book in particular is written by the author many decades later so I do wonder how much he actually remembered or is there artistic licence?? Whatever his recall the writing is wonderful and gave me a real feeling of been there with him and meeting the people alo ...more
Who doesn’t turn their head from a distance in time of at least ten years, back to their younger years, to marvel, and maybe to remember, at how the freshly bubbling optimism of youth can get away with quite so much? As with “A Time Of Gifts” and “Between The Woods And The Water”, this final volume in the saga of the nomad within a youngster named Patrick doesn’t disappoint.

This time I avoided too much looking at the first sketch map (facing pg. 1) of PLF’s latest journey – until that is I reac
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Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor, OBE, DSO was a British author and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Battle of Crete during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer".

Other books in the series

Trilogy (3 books)
  • A Time of Gifts
  • Between the Woods and the Water
“A shadow appeared on the awnings further up the land, gliding across each rectangle of canvas towards my table, sinking in the sag, rising again at the edge, and moving on to the next with a flicker of dislocation, then gliding onwards. As it crossed the stripe of sunlight between two awnings, it threaded the crimson beak of a stork through the air, a few inches above the gap; then came a long white neck, the swell of snowy breast feathers and the six-foot motionless span of its white wings and the tips of the black flight feathers upturned and separated as fingers in the lift of the air current. The white belly followed, tapering, and then, trailing behind, the fan of its tail and long parallel legs of crimson lacquer, the toes of each of them closed and streamlined, but the whole shape flattening, when the band of sunlight was crossed, into a two-dimensional shadow once more, enormously displayed across the rectangle of cloth, as distinct and nearly as immobile, so languid was its flight, as an emblematic bird on a sail; then sliding across it and along the nearly still corridor of air between the invisible eaves and the chimneys, dipping along the curl of the lane like a sigh of wonder, and, at last, a furlong away slowly pivoting, at a gradual tilt, out of sight. A bird of passage like the rest of us.” 0 likes
“south of the Danube, by offering a spoonful of sherbet” 0 likes
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