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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure. by Antony Beevor, Artemis Cooper Hardcover – Import, October 1, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


'Artemis Cooper's funny, wise, learned but totally candid biography reveals Leigh Fermor to be an adventurer through and through ... page-turning' Barnaby Rogerson, Independent 'Artemis Cooper's definitive biography draws on many years' encounters with Fermor, and is probably the most important travel-related book of the year' Conde Nast Traveller 'Patrick Leigh Fermor survived enough assaults on his existence to make Rasputin seem like a quitter ... He was elegant as a cat, darkly handsome, unboreable, curious, fearless, fortunate, blessed with a near eidetic memory, and is surely one of the great English prose stylists of his generation ... At last his biography has been detailed in full, in Artemis Cooper's tender and excellent book' Robert MacFarlane, Guardian 'This book is a primer for those poor souls yet to encounter his work, and a valuable, decoding manual for the multitude who believe that Leigh Fermor's trilogy about his youthful walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul marks one of the high points of twentieth-century English prose ... Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover' Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph 'Xenophilia is as English as Stilton. In one of the wonderful letters quoted in this perceptive, haunting and highly readable biography, Patrick Leigh Fermor called living in England "like living in the heart of a lettuce. I pine for hot stones and thorns and olive trees and prickly pears"' Philip Mansel, The Spectator 'Happy the hero who, after a lifetime of glorious achievement, in death finds a biographer worthy of his memory. Artemis Cooper ... makes this marvellous book less a mere life story than an evocation. [Patrick Leigh Fermor] is justly commemorated in this magnificent biography, and will surely be remembered for ever as one of the very best of men' Jan Morris, Sunday Telegraph 'Magnificent ... Cooper's book is the perfect memorial to this remarkable man ... For those of us who loved him and his work, and for a whole generation of writers who set off in his footsteps, he was the exemplar, showing how magnificently an English life could still be lived. He remains ... the model to which we still aspire' William Dalrymple, Financial Times 'Whether describing a night attack on Crete, a love affair or the political tensions over Cyprus that poisoned Anglo-Greek relations after the Second World War, she writes with a cool hand and clear head. Her book lives up to the majesty of the man' Country Life '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. 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 create for his readers with carefully crafted words the same wonder that it gave him' Philip Marsden, Mail on Sunday 'The outstanding achievement in literary biography this year' Robert McCrum, Observer Books of the Year 2012 'It is not easy writing a biography of someone who has poured so much of his life into his books, but Artemis Cooper has done a brilliant job' Mail on Sunday 'In a splendid biography Artemis Cooper shows how a rather frustrated young man, who found it difficult to conform, changed the course of his life by undertaking an extraordinary journey ... Cooper has done a sterling job in recounting his time on Crete' We Love This Book 'He is the greatest travel writer of the last century, a master of English prose ... no one has written so well about what it is like to be young and hopeful, with one's future spread before one. Artemis Cooper has done him proud' Jeremy Lewis, Literary Review 'Artemis Cooper carries us on a calm, confident journey ... Cooper has mastered a tremendous amount of material' Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph 'Artemis Cooper winningly followed in the footsteps of the great charmer, warrior and yarn-spinner' Independent 'Artemis Cooper's biography proved magnificently that a somewhat over-eulogised hero could be well worth the eulogising after all' Jan Morris, Sunday Telegraph 'There's a true biographical treat in store with the long-awaited arrival of ... Patrick Leigh Fermor, the sure-to-be glorious life of the twentieth century's greatest Hellenic traveller' Sunday Telegraph preview Jan 2012 'Excellent, well-sourced' Daily Telegraph 'By any standards, Patrick Leigh Fermor led an extraordinary life' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times 'Artemis Cooper draws on years of interviews with the author and his friends in this much-anticipated biography' Guardian 'Fermor emerges as a man determined to live on his own terms, if not his own means, and who mostly - and most magnificently - succeeded' Observer 'I also adored Artemis Cooper's biography of my favourite travel writer ... in her new biography Cooper has left the perfect memorial to this remarkable man, which is as full of joie de vivre as its subject' William Dalrymple, Observer Books of the Year 'An outstanding account of an extraordinary life; tender and evocative, without ever hardening into hagiography' Guardian Books of the Year 2012 'The life of an immensely charming man ... compelling, funny and wise' Jane Ridley, The Spectator Books of the Year 'In describing Leigh Fermor's life, Artemis Cooper had often to revisit a told tale while correcting detail, expounding and inserting context. It was not an easy commission, and she has delivered it brilliantly ... 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' Scotsman 'An admirably fair-minded portrait of the celebrated travel writer and adventurer' Sunday Times '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 'A fine friendly, biography of a heroic, headlong character' The Times 'Unputdownable biography' Big Issue 'Artemis Cooper has done a fine job of documenting his travels' Lonely Planet Magazine 'Tender and excellent' Week 'Meticulously researched' Independent on Sunday 'Artemis Cooper ... has done him proud' Literary Review '[Patrick Leigh Fermor's] experiences have been rubbed smooth by much telling, often inaccurate as well as humdrum, and it is very much to Artemis Cooper's credit that she irons out the inaccuracies and places each anecdote in its poper context, backing it up with careful documentation' Patrick Green, Times Literary Supplement 'Cooper does this iconic figure proud in a well-researched biography' Sunday Herald 'One of the 20th century's truly great men, Fermor is admirably served by this splendid biography' Lady 'Cooper does full justice to this fascinating 20th-century Renaissance man' Saga Magazine 'A superb biography of the adventurous travel writer and war hero, draws on the years of interviews and complete access to his archives' Independent 'A roster of adventure and exuberant derring-do' Independent on Sunday 'His writing beautifully evokes exotic people and places. There wasn't nearly enough of it, but what there was has endured' Peter Lewis, Daily Mail 'Artemis Cooper's Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure was widely admired for its vivid portrait of a remarkable man' David Robson, Sunday Telegraph 'A clear-sighted account of an extraordinary life' Sunday Express 'She successfully communicates his enormous enthusiasm for life' Paul Torday, Sunday Express Artemis Cooper reveals a quite extraordinary human being Good Book Guide Affectionate but never credulous, Cooper gets the measure of the man Guardian It is the depth, pace and objectivity that distinguishes this impressive biography Daily Mail Affectionate and amiable biography Sunday Times Culture Cooper makes a familiar life - the adolescent walk across Europe, the derring-do in wartime Crete, the books that established him as one of the great prose writes of the 20th century - seem new Sunday Telegraph Tender and excellent Guardian Artemis Cooper does a wonderful job of retelling the story of how 'Paddy' tramped across Europe in the 1930s, slept with princesses and kidnapped Nazis on his beloved island of Crete. Affectionate but never credulous, Cooper gets the measure of the man Observer

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719554497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719554490
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,776,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a huge fan of Fermor since I discovered a used copy (with the original cover) of Time of Gifts. I soon read everything I could get my hands on and eagerly waited for the third in the trilogy I was so sad when I heard of his passing, and thrilled to see a bio being written. I was not expecting a travelogue like other readers - if I wanted that I would have just reread his books. I was expecting a well rounded look at this very intelligent and adventurous man. What I got was the background of his life, and his travels and why he never completed the third book. But most of the book was a blow by blow detailed account of his partying, love life, name dropping, moves ad nauseum. The biographer seemed to be writing a haigography, with little nuance of how his experience changed his writing. I ended up loving his books all over again and want to reread them. But ended up really disliking this immature and self centered man the traveler became. Pity.
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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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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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