In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot - from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and takes the listener with him as far as Hungary.
It is a book of compelling glimpses - not only of the events that were curdling Europe at that time, but also of its resplendent domes and monasteries, its great rivers, the sun on the Bavarian snow, the storks and frogs, the hospitable burgomasters who welcomed him, and that world's grandeurs and courtesies. His powers of recollection have astonishing sweep and verve, and the scope is majestic.
©1977 The estate of Patrick Leigh Fermor (P)2014 Hodder & Stoughton
"Nothing short of a masterpiece" (Jan Morris)
"Not only is the journey one of physical adventure but of cultural awakening. Architecture, art, genealogy, quirks of history and language are all devoured - and here passed on - with a gusto uniquely his" (Colin Thubron, Sunday Telegraph)
"Rightly considered to be among the most beautiful travel books in the language" (Independent)
I wish it weren't so, but I have to say I was mildly disappointed by the book. Part of the problem has to do with the audio narrator's somewhat dramatically effete-sounding style, although he seems to pronounce German phrases (which pop up regularly) like a native. Regarding the text itself, there seemed to be a fair amount of digression at the beginning, detracting from the travel narrative aspect. Moreover, he just seems too comfortable as long as there are English/German speakers at hand, moving from one host to another by word-of-mouth in Germany and Austria. Czechoslovakia seemed a transition zone (remember, Kafka wrote in German not Czech). So, I'm optimistic that the remainder of the trip covered by the sequel will be more adventurous, shall we say.
I was struck that he's hitting eastern Europe during their brief period of inter-war democracy, no empires, no communists. Still, every time he mentions Jews or Gypsies, I cringe knowing what's soon to follow.
I love this remarkable book so much, but I am having trouble listening to this plummy and affected reading of it. Listen to the sample carefully before buying--make sure you're OK with this style of delivery!
I don't know. Someone who just .... reads.
yes, fascinating journey beautifully described
The picture of 1930s Europe
The time in Vienna
A really good read
"Go Along For The Ride"
I found that once I had got past the initial cynicism that invariably occurs everytime I read memoirs by people who seem able to recall every single detail of events that occurred ages ago and stopped wondering how they could have remembered it all (particularly with diaries being lost, copious quantities of drink consumed, etc.!) and simply concentrated on the story he was telling, this made a wonderful account of events that could, and possibly did, more-or-less take place in an era that is now, quite literally, history. Basically, it helped to adopt the journalistic maxim of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.
As someone whom my art historian friend would quite rightly describe as a 'complete intellectual peasant' I did find the lengthy musings on schools of painting, architectural styles and linguistic derivations as rather irritating 'fillers' that interrupted an otherwise great, and frequently funny, story and found the idea of an 18-year fixating on whether or not Shakespeare's reference to 'the coast of Bohemia' was geographically and historically accurate somewhat bizarre - didn't he have other things to worry about? - but these were minor 'bumps in the road' compared to the overall enjoyment I derived. In fact, approaching the end of this book it was an easy decision to buy the next two books in the trilogy.
Much of the credit for my enjoyment must go to the wonderful narration of Crispin Redman - I only wish I could give him 10 stars instead of 5. What an absolutely wonderful case he makes for audible books. If there is some way by which my appreciation of his performance could be passed-on I would be delighted.
"Maybe better to read this at leisure"
I am tempted to read the sequel rather than listen to the audio, which I found rather rushed.
The feeling of landscape and the times of the period between the wars. People's values and way of life are very well captured.
Sounds like JustAMinute. It felt like he was racing not to hesitate, deviate from the subject or otherwise be caught out by Nicholas Parsons. I suppose there are a lot of words to read, but I found the delivery tiring after a while.
Yes I did enjoy it, but I am not sure about Listening to the sequel.
"An unusual, sometimes magical, travel book"
I found this a rather strange book. I am glad that I listened to it, yet I am also rather ambivalent about its faithfulness. My reason is that the author, an upper-class, precocious and scholarly youth, walked across Europe in the early 1930’s as an 18yr old, but does not seem to have written up his account until 1977, when he would have been in his 60’s. Taken as a whole, I found it an impressive piece of writing, although there were times when I thought it was pretentious and prolix. However, if you immerse yourself in the world that Leigh Fermor invokes, and listen to the poetic and sometimes fantastical quality of his prose, and take it as an ‘out of the box’ reading experience, then I think you will have to give credit to the intellect that conjured it up. It may be uncharitable, but I suspect it was mainly written to satisfy the authors ego and to relive memories of youth. As I said, I am really glad to have listened to it, but I shall not be re-reading it, or choosing this author again. Too harsh perhaps.
"I urge anyone embarking on this book to first...."
It's a delightful book which I took a while to finish initially.
Yeah he's pretty good.
Just fascinating listening to a guys travels through Euorope before the war
I happened to stumble onto another book Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall which blew this book wide open for me. The character is nothing short of a charming James Bond. I urge anyone embarking on this book to listen to Natural Born Heroes first.
Capturing the time and the place wonderfully.
Patrick Leigh Fermor deserves his reputation as a travel writer of note.
I will definitely be reading the other two volumes of his travels.
"A Passionate Account of Great Depth"
I enjoyed this very much though the numerous branchings into history, literature, art and culture were sometimes difficult to place in context. On this level there would have been an advantage in having the text in front of me so I could reference details more readily.
The writing is excellent and the narration fine, and the story brings home a style of travel -- an admirable self-sufficiency aided by Fate and strangers -- that is perhaps much harder to consider in this century.
Wonderful travelogue of a pre-war Europe. Another reviewer has noted the tendency of PLF to break off into discursions on abstruse subjects from time to time; unlike that reviewer, I wholly enjoyed these trips into history, art, architecture and what feels like a hundred other subjects. It seems hard to credit that a 19 year-old could be quite so well versed in classics, history and dozens of other topics as PLF was, particularly given his school record, but perhaps I'm being too quick to judge by modern standards. Crispin Redman is the perfect narrator, catching the character of the man without alienating him from us, which would have been easy to do, and acts, rather than reads, the book.
Finished this afternoon and the next volume is already downloaded ready for tomorrow. i can't wait.
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