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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure Hardcover – October 15, 2013

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Frequently Bought Together

Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure + The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos (New York Review Books Classics) + A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (New York Review Books Classics)
Price for all three: $56.15

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books; 1st Printing edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159017674X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590176740
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915–2011) was a legendary British travel writer, who, in the early 1930s, while still a teenager, walked from one end of Europe to the other. Later, his experiences were written up in the two books (out of the several he wrote) for which he is most remembered, A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Woods and the Water (1986), which together chronicled his step-by-step trek across mountains, rivers, and national borders, finding food and lodging where he could, the latter often in barns. His natural charm and good looks brought him into contact with people from all walks of life, from gypsies to aristocrats. Cooper’s definitive biography follows in sparkling detail this life-defining sojourn and also the other major factors in a long and colorful life, including military service in WWII, during which he fought with the resistance forces on Crete. Fermor’s exuberant personality often rubbed people the wrong way, and his baroque writing style, on exhibit in all his books, aroused controversy as well. But avid readers of travel literature should know this man, and here is the place to start. --Brad Hooper


“The most beautifully written of modern “travel books” — an awkward term — may well be Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts (1977) closely followed by its sequel Between the Woods and the Water (1986). These two volumes lyrically memorialize a youthful walk across Europe in 1933-34, starting from the Hook of Holland and passing through Germany and much of Eastern Europe.” —The Washington Post

“Artemis Cooper’s excellent biography, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, fills in the details, corrects errors and makes clear that Paddy — as he was always known — often conflated incidents or fudged details in his writing, sometimes for reasons of art, sometimes to protect a friend or a woman’s reputation.” —The Washington Post 

"Surprise is the keynote of the best travel writing.  The travel writer should be knowledgeable but not an expert, open in mind and body to the unforeseen twists of serendipity. But what we most require from travel writing... is that elusive quality Nick Carraway defined as 'romantic readiness.' Few 20th- century figures combined these traits in a more appealing package than the English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.....Now Artemis Cooper has written an affectionately intimate, informative and forgiving biography...."— Christopher Benfey, The New York Times Book Review

"This engaging work sheds light on the life of one of Britain's greatest travel writers, with particular detail on his time in Greece, his war escapades, and his struggles with writing.  Recommended for lovers of armchair travel and those who enjoyed Sir Patrick's own writings. "— Library Journal

“Artemis Cooper has done a brilliant job of piecing together the shards of evidence about this glamorous but elusive writer, who seemed not to be able to resist mixing fact and fiction in his own life story.” —John Eliot Gardiner, The Wall Street Journal

"A fondly admiring account of the English wayfarer captures his enormously infectious spirit...A solid biography that should introduce more readers to Leigh Fermor's work." —Kirkus Reviews

"In her arresting biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor, an ever-curious travel writer known for experiencing locales at ground- level, Cooper, studies a man determined to see the world firsthand, with interviews from family and friends, rare letters, and diaries....Nostalgic and expertly written, Cooper fleshes out Fermor, a man who boldly traveled a world on the edge of catastrophe, which he explained in his writing to a faithful readership." —Publishers Weekly

One of The Independent’s “50 Best Winter Reads”

Short-listed for the inaugural Waterstones “Book of the Year”
“Patrick Leigh Fermor, who died last year [2011] at the age of 96, was one of the travel-writing greats, a war hero who related his journeys as a young man through Europe in classics such as A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. Artemis Cooper draws on years of interviews with the author and his friends in this much-anticipated biography.” —The Guardian
“He lived an inspirationally heterodox life that combined adventure and reflection in unique measure. His story has hitherto been known only in parts, and mostly through the refractive prism of his own telling. At last his biography has been detailed in full, in Artemis Cooper’s tender and excellent book. Reading it is an odd experience: there is the melancholy of having one’s hero humanised, joined with renewed astonishment at the miracle he made of himself.” —The Guardian
“Artemis Cooper’s funny, wise, learned but totally candid biography reveals Leigh Fermor to be an adventurer through and through. The artifice of effortless gentility is blown away and Paddy is revealed as a much more interesting character, a fascinatingly self-made and self-educated man. He is also placed in the pantheon of literary liggers, a consummate lifelong freeloader, a prince among sponge-artists, which he paid for with his unique energy, talent and enthusiasm for song, dance, talk, memorised verse, drink and other men’s wives.” —The Independent
“A captivating biography.... It is not easy writing a biography of someone who has poured so much of his own life into his books, but Artemis Cooper has done a brilliant job. The story rips along, as Leigh Fermor’s life did, with friends and lovers, books and journeys and parties, all milling and jostling around him in a noisy and joyous throng. And in the quieter moments we are left with something far more enduring: a man for whom the world was endlessly fascinating, and who found that he could recreate for his readers with carefully crafted words the same wonder that it gave him.” —Philip Marsden, The Daily Mail
“It is not easy to convey the flavour of a man whose fame to a large extent rests on his ebullient personality and conversation but Ms Cooper succeeds admirably in this readable and entertaining book.” —The Economist
“Artemis Cooper’s fine biography gives colour and substance to the adventure, and a delicate, sympathetic portrait of the man who made it his life.” —The Scotsman
“A perceptive, haunting and highly readable biography.” —Philip Mansel, The Spectator
“Leigh Fermor was funny, learned, sexy, irrepressible, flawed yet much loved, remarkable and, at times, brilliant —not unlike this book.” —Anthony Sattin, The Guardian
“Cooper’s book is the perfect memorial to this remarkable man.” —William Dalrymple, Financial Times
“Patrick Leigh Fermor walked from Holland to Constantinople in the 1930s, swam the Hellespont, captured a German general, wandered the Caribbean, befriended everyone of consequence and wit, and wrote about it all in some of the most elegant, sinuous prose of the century. His friend Artemis Cooper has written the biography his singular life richly deserves.” —The Daily Beast
“Happy the hero who, after a lifetime of glorious achievement, in death finds a biographer worthy of his memory. Patrick Leigh Fermor...has been so widely celebrated in print, in film and in legend that the task of writing another 400 pages about him would seem, as he might himself say, Sisyphean. Artemis Cooper, however, rolls the immense boulder with an apparently effortless grace, and makes this marvellous book less a mere life story than an evocation.... He is justly commemorated in this magnificent biography, and will surely be remembered for ever as one of the very best of men.” —Jan Morris, The Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

For my taste, I found too much narrative and too little reflection.
As a long-time fan of Patrick Leigh Fermor's writing, it was fascinating to read an outsider's account of his life, and of his travels.
Ibn Battuta
Having read several of Fermor's travel books, I became very curious about the man.
alice nass-yepsen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By D. G. Wright on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be a relentless accumulation of gossip about PLF and his rich and famous friends. Lots of juicy gossip. Little analysis, little attempt to understand a complex and ultimately sad man. No attempt to present his normal daily life or his relationships with the non-rich and famous. A very long discussion of the much-discussed German-general-kidnapping.

Artemis Cooper has known PLF all her life, her husband made much use of his information in a fine history of the Cretan war. Her family has known Fermor. She has had unparalleled access to information which she has simply used, at best, for titillation.

I am a long-time admirer of PLF. He was a man of courage, complex, highly flawed, highly gifted. He deserves much better.

Cooper wrote an "official" biography. Perhaps a better, more intelligent writer can write a real biography.

My review is here:[...]
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gebhard on November 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a most well researched biography of a fascinating man and writer who lived and wrote in many parts of the world. Many years were spent in Greece where PLF lived mainly in the Mani region of the Peloponnese. Hiking across much of Europe in the early thirties, on a shoe-string budget, bunking with aristocrats and serfs is a story well covered that should give incentives to the young of today. The detailed descriptions of his life in the SOE in Cairo and in Crete is of great interest to servicemen and anyone connected to the WW2 resistance movement in Crete. The reality of the capture on General Kreipe becomes more clear than it was in the book and film, 'Ill Met by Moonlight' that featured Dirk Bogarde as PLF. A book that deserves to be reread many times.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like another reviewer, I was disappointed in this book. It lacked insight into Fermor's character and his literary work. Given Cooper's access to Fermor and his papers, it should have been better.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved Patrick Leigh Fermore's A Gift of Time and Between the Water and the Woods. I didn't know much about the author and only realized later that he wrote these books many years after his walk.

I wanted to find out more about him so I also read In Tearing Haste which gave me some inkling about PLF. So I was waiting for Diana Cooper's book with great anticipation. And I was greatly disappointed on two counts. One was not her fault but the other surely was.

To find out that someone whose writing one admires greatly has not just clay feet but is clay up to his knees at least, was painful. PLF was a charming,talented and gifted, con artist, moocher, tom cat etc. How sad that someone with such great gifts and potential doesn't really live up to it.

So now we come to the part that is the fault of the biographer. This could and should have been a book which delved into what made PLF tick. Why did he waste so much of his time. Why was he able to mooch off his future wife and spend the money on ladies of the night. Why was she ok with that. It didn't seem to bother him at all that he gave some of his lovers venereal diseases etc. etc.

None of these and other important questions are answered. Instead we are given a strung together list of important people he knew and interacted with, the many trips he took and so on. And all this in pretty pedestrian prose. I am very disappointed. I was looking forward
to the Broken Road the last of the triology but now I am hesitant not knowing if Ms. Cooper did it justice.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tina on January 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was a little disappointed with this biography. I felt it was too long since, although PLF had an interesting life there is not very much happening in the way of 'action' after his stunt of kidnapping a general on Crete during the last year of World War II to warrant 466 pages. The author fills a lot of space with for instance the almost complete story of this kidnapping in 'Ill met by Moonlight' which is a book by itself and has no place in this biography. She also writes endless pages listing all the people PLF knew, which amounts to a list of 'who is who' in English society.This may be interesting for English people but has not much interest for anyone else.

If I compare this biography with say the one on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson the quality of writing is miles apart. That one I could not put down whereas the one on PLF made me skip quite a few pages because they were so boring.

Had the writer limited herself on PLF's life as such with the things he actually did and experienced the book most likely could have been around the 250 to 300 pages mark and would make much more riveting reading. But the endless mentioning of his constant travels here and there with any amount of glitterati friends and not much meaning other than giving the impression of very restless people who have nothing better to do become tedious. Only PLF's own travels such as the ones to the monasteries of the Athos etc. and the one as a young man before WW II are interesting. But they are already books in their own right .

A pity, because this could have been a great book about a very unusual and interesting man.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Aviott John on November 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a great fan of "A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Woods and the Water," I have been holding my breath waiting for the third volume in the series to appear. This biography allows me to release my breath in an almost-satisfied sigh of complicity and understanding. These two almost-perfect travel books will not be rounded off with a third volume that describes the last part of Patrick Liegh Fermor's youthful journey, from Rumania to Constantinople. Knowing now that the third book will not appear, and knowing more about the author's charmed life, I can go back to savoring and re-reading the two books mentioned above for a third time.
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