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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure Hardcover – 11 Oct 2012

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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure + The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos + A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; 1st Edition edition (11 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719554497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719554490
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 3.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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)

Book Description

The authorized biography shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year, the National Book Awards and the Costa Biography Award.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By PC on 12 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a diligent but sometimes flat portrayal of a great artist and greater character, with much on how and where he lived but long stretches without enough on why. Its the opposite of a hatchet job - I loved him just as much at the end as I did before reading the book. Part of the problem with the book is that Cooper is such a howling name dropper, with dozens of names she wouldn't/couldn't omit for whatever reasons when working with all that material. PLF was a name dropper too of course but he transcended all of that by his unbelievable curiosity and his personal courage. There is far too much about Buffy and Binky and Bipsy & agreeable weekends of charades in palaces, and far too little about his inner imaginative life. I did wonder if the core relationship with Joan and their decision (was it a decision?) not to have a family was important - were there a pile of regrets that held him back from writing more?

The fact that he was a bit of a rotter is not a problem at all - of course he was. That he could at times be very insensitive to his surroundings is intriguing and I think the author could have dug away at that more. But when its good its a wonderful book - she tells the same stories as PLF but unpicks the way the stories evolved. Whats actually quite thrilling is how much the stories were indeed true and the book closes on that lovely note. I had previously had a suspicion he might be a bit like David Niven who was obviously much loved and wanted to entertain everyone, but was it seems incapable of telling the truth, or a tale the same way twice. PLF's own books tried to pick that point up by having a dialogue between his young and adult selves but I must confess I was a bit worried the written record would prove to be a series of over-embroidered fantasies.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lewis on 12 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
I admire Artemis Cooper as a writer, and have so far enjoyed and appreciated all of her published work.

But I am with those who say that there is not enough objectivity in this biography. It must of course have helped that PLF was a close friend of the authoress's family, but this may also have caused her to pull her punches.

There is an awful lot of reverence and love for PLF reflected here. But for all that, he was a flawed and evidently complex man. It would therefore have been far more interesting, if not essential, to have had more reflection here of the views of those who were not enamoured of PLF and his behaviour. His relationship with his wife - surely more complex and unorthodox even than those relationships in his social set - deserves more and deeper analysis and the authoress's own interpretation. The same could be said of the many love (whatever that may be, in the case of PLF) affairs he had. It is surely inconceivable that some of the women concerned would have come away unhurt. In this context, the closest we have to understanding something of his behaviour and its consequences is in PLF's treatment of Lyndall Hopkinson, and her response to PLF's failure to communicate with her when they parted. Do his apology to her and reasons for not corresponding really stack up? How could he have imagined any other response, unless he was so used to getting away with such behaviour? Leaving aside the much quoted Somerset Maugham view of PLF and possibly the views of those who were envious of PLF, there must surely have been some men who had more objective, views of him. Was there really no way of unearthing them?

Is it an excuse that men of PLF's generation were unforthcoming about their feelings and personal responses?
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Secret Spi on 5 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Patrick Leigh Fermor free-loaded, partied, drank and bonked his way around the world at least twice over in his long and eventful lifetime - and, while he wasn't doing that, wrote travel books that have entranced and inspired readers over half a century. I haven't read all his books yet, but the two I have read, 'A Time of Gifts' and 'Between the Woods and the Water' utterly enchanted me with a profound and lasting effect.

In retrospect, maybe it was inevitable that this biography would be a let-down, but I have seldom looked forward to a book so much - and I so wanted to love this book.

Some of my disappointment does come from the character of PLF, as portrayed in the biography, which is hardly the fault of the author, I know. He does tend to come across as the original couch-surfer, free-loading his way from one bed to the next. I did wonder if, these days, his exploits would be twittered and Facebooked for all to see, warts/crabs and all - and realised that, in an old-fashioned way, I prefer my heroes to maintain some aura of mystery.

But beyond the slight disillusionment with its subject, I found the biography curiously flat and somehow lacking in life and sparkle. It is peppered with names of people and places, but most of these didn't take on any life or meaning for me. I realised that the book was meticulously researched and have every admiration for the author in this respect. But perhaps leaving out some of the bit parts and places and concentrating on fewer characters and incidents would have made for a more satisfying and insightful account of a man who was clearly a complex character.
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