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The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos [Paperback]

Patrick Leigh Fermor
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 April 2014

The long-awaited final volume of the trilogy by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water were the first two volumes in a projected trilogy that would describe the walk that Patrick Leigh Fermor undertook at the age of eighteen from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. 'When are you going to finish Vol. III?' was the cry from his fans; but although he wished he could, the words refused to come. The curious thing was that he had not only written an early draft of the last part of the walk, but that it predated the other two. It remains unfinished but The Broken Road - edited and introduced by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper - completes an extraordinary journey.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (10 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848547544
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848547544
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Nobody could do the job better than the book's editors. Colin Thubron is a travel writer of Leigh Fermor's calibre, Artemis Cooper is his masterly biographer . . . It contains wonderful passages of purest Leigh Fermor . . . Time and again he gives us vivid glimpses of encounters along the way - priests and peasants, the squalors of the back country, high life in Bucharest - and this virtuoso display is embedded as always in his astonishing range of learning . . . full of fun, kindness, easy learning, sophistication and innocence . . . a gently fitting conclusion to his tumultuous masterpiece (Jan Morris Mail on Sunday)

This is a major work. It confirms that Leigh Fermor was, along with Robert Byron, the greatest travel writer of his generation, and this final volume assures the place of the trilogy as one of the masterpieces of the genre, indeed one of the masterworks of post-war English non-fiction (William Dalrymple Guardian)

Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper have put this book to bed with skill and sensitivity . . . Friends and fans, acolytes, devotees and disciples can all rest easy. It was worth the wait (Justin Marozzi Spectator)

The editors have done a fine job (Literary Review)

It is magnificent. Cooper and Thubron have done an immense service in bringing the book to publication, for it unmistakably stands comparison with its remarkable siblings. The prose has the glorious turbulence and boil of the first two books, and the youthful magic of his 'dream-odyssey' is still potent (Robert MacFarlane, The Times)

A fitting conclusion to his masterpiece . . . This book is momentous (Mail on Sunday)

The pages are filled with brilliant evocations of his life on the road, none richer than the time he spent in a Romanian broth . . . It is a fitting epilogue to 20th-century travel-writing and essential reading for devotees of Sir Patrick's other works (The Economist)

I set off along The Broken Road laden with expectations that I would have to make allowances. Yet almost from the off, I realised that I would have no use for these. Here was a wealth of descriptions that only Leigh Fermor could have conjured up . . . In a stroke of brilliance, Thubron and Cooper have included the separate diary that Leigh Fermor kept of the month he spent exploring Mount Athos in Greece immediately after leaving Istanbul. So, the Athos diary, aglow with rich experience, finally brings the journey to its rightful end in the spiritual heart of the country that was to prove, though the young author did not yet know it, Leigh Fermor's "real love and destination" (New Statesman)

This is a picaresque essay, a virtuoso tapestry of anecdote in the author's best tradition (Country Life)

The first two volumes were a joy to read, not least for Leigh Fermor's ability to recapture in later life the intense excitement of being a young man lighting out. The latest book offers similar joys . . . Also evident are another of the joys of the earlier books - the pyrotechnics of his writing. Exuberance is expressed in heightened suggestions . . . it captures the joy of the open road, the fresh view he gives of Europe as it began to show the stresses that led to world war, and the glimpses of a long-lost life and innocence (Observer)

The Mount Athos diary - untampered with by his older self - reminds us what an extraordinary young man he was . . . This early style is more immediate, more youthful; a pleasure to read in a wholly different way from the later magnificence (Financial Times)

A road trip that is as illuminating as it is incomplete made by a traveller, warrior and jewelled stylist (Independent)

There is plenty to enjoy, so much so that the reader often forgets to wonder how much is true, and how much the revisionist work of an inventive and poetic mind . . . the pleasure lies in its combination of erudition, exuberant speculation, lively anecdote and meticulous, picture-painting language . . . Gorgeous imagery, granted, yet it is in Leigh Fermor's disarming cameos that The Broken Road excels (Sunday Times)

His literary executors have topped, tailed and polished with such sympathy and skill that their interventions cannot be detected. This is pure Paddy: these are his feelings, perceptions and responses, his the observations, his the descriptions, consummate in a phrase, acute and intense when extended to paragraph or page; this is his style yet it is in many ways a youthful text, its core the adventure of a very young man, its embellishments the experience, curiosity and wisdom of his older self (Evening Standard)

What a poignant and somehow fitting finale for a legendary procrastinator. It was certainly worth the wait (National)

This final leg, through Romania and Bulgaria rounds off a classic trilogy (i)

For readers of the other two books, to see the odyssey at last (almost) concluded, will naturally be irresistible. For everyone else there is the discovery of a unique writer (Sunday Express)

The final volume confirms the trilogy as one of the 'masterpieces' of English travel writing (Week)

A scintillating continuation of the prodigious walk that took the young Leigh Fermor right into the heart of magically different pre-war Europe and beyond . . . his journey is complete, his world task accomplished, with the whole undertaking as thick in marvels as Aladdin's cave (Irish Times)

The perfect present for anyone with wanderlust (Good Housekeeping)

The third unfinished volume of Leigh Fermor's enchanted journey through Mitteleuropa is here at last (TLS Books of the Year)

Glorious . . . Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron created THE BROKEN ROAD from a rejected essay on walking (15 times the size requested of Paddy), some failed drafts and a pair of flimsy travel journals. But the author is arguably more present in their loving editorial hands . . . than in any of his other books. There is also that infectious enthusiasm for the road and the lived experience, for spoken language, oral knowledge and for everything Byzantine and Greek (Daily Telegraph, Best Books of the Year)

His epic journey's erudite conclusion will not disappoint his many fans (Saga)

Offers a fascinating glimpse of a lost time and talent (Financial Times, Books of the Year)

My favourite book this year was the final, unfinished and posthumous volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor's walking trilogy . . . it is every bit as masterly as Between the Woods and the Water (Observer, Books of the Year)

Glorious . . . Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron created The Broken Road . . . but the author is arguably more present in their loving editorial hands . . . than in any of his other books. There is also that infectious enthusiasm for the road and the lived experience, for spoken language, oral knowledge and for everything Byzantine and Greek (Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year)

Its rich depictions and liquid language make this a masterpiece to savour (Sunday Express)

In magnificent prose [Patrick Leigh Fermor] describes liaisons with countesses in crumbling castles, changing landscapes, now lost forever, and the delight of a young man with nothing but himself and his quest for adventure. Travel writing at its most sublime (Daily Express)

His award-winning biographer Artemis Cooper and travel writer Colin Thubron have painstakingly and sensitively worked on Paddy's draft of the final leg of his epic journey and ghosted a wonderful account of his swashbuckling journey . . . It conjures up a life that's unimaginable in more cautious modern times and is beautifully written (Daily Mail)

Like many really good things, it's hard to say why The Broken Road, the final volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor's account of his walk from Holland to Constantinople, is so satisfying. But it is (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

The long-awaited final volume of the trilogy by Patrick Leigh Fermor - hailed as the greatest travel writer of his generation.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All manner of things are well 25 Sep 2013
By Mr. A. G. Liddle VINE VOICE
I have to admit to some trepidation when hearing that the final volume of this great trilogy was to be pieced together from the diaries and journals of PLF. I should have been reassured by the knowledge that both Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper would be at the helm, but nerves still prevailed as I dipped in for the first time. I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that the first two volumes of this extraordinary trilogy were the sole province of PLF and that the final "reconstruction" would somehow not live up to expectations. I was wrong!

The third volume is an absolute delight from beginning to end. PLF's voice (and what a voice) comes across loud and clear. The final chapters on Mount Athos are worth the price of entry alone. Witty, erudite, vivacious and, above all, a fitting last testament to a great writer who will be sorely missed.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the wait 5 Oct 2013
By NickR
Format:Kindle Edition
I was initially reluctant to like this book: Artemis Cooper's recent biography had revealed aspects of PLF I didn't greatly like, and I was still sulking as a result; and the fact that the book had been patched together after the author's death made me over-sensitive to the occasional stylistic or grammatical howler. I should have been less prickly. The book is terrific. As usual, Leigh Fermor manages to combine the lyrical and the encyclopaedic in a leisurely way which never bores. Highlights for me were his slow meandering through the Balkan mountains, the bright lights and chatter of Bucharest high society, and the memorable scene in the cave on the Black Sea coast, with the dancing Greek fishermen.

Unlike some other reviewers I found the section on Mount Athos a little disappointing: monasteries are ticked off one by one, and the narrative has little space in which to breathe. I was surprised to learn that PLF apparently made several attempts to polish up the manuscript of this section, as it reads more like unreconstructed juvenilia than the earlier part of the book. Good in its way, though, and an interesting waystage in the development of the writer.

The book has an excellent jacket by the way. Ed Kluz is a worthy successor to John Craxton, who did most of PLF's covers.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Don't get me wrong, much of it is in PLF's inimitable style, and frankly it's a great relief to (almost) finish the journey having been stuck in limbo at the Iron Gates for several years since reading volume 2.

But of course having been compiled by his biographer and literary executor from the notes he left behind, it's not exactly what PLF would have written had he finished it himself. I was particularly disappointed by whole sections that PLF couldn't remember, and by the inclusion of quite a lot of material about what happened to Romania and Bulgaria after the impending war and from some of PLF's subsequent visits - which all feels rather like padding and an unnecessary diversion.

In my view it doesn't work as a stand-alone piece of literature, so if you haven't read the first two volumes don't start here. If you have, then it completes the journey, and the trilogy.

This book documents, in a slightly unsatisfactory manner, the final missing piece from what was, by any measure, an extraordinary life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unbroken Record 31 Oct 2013
This is the third installment of Fermor's voyage across Europe. "The spectacular success of the first two volumes drastically increased public expectation of the third" avow Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper in their Introduction to this book. I cannot say in all honesty that "The Broken Road" read in isolation is the best introduction to PLF, but for those already familiar with his work this book will not disappoint them.

In a way it is two books in one : the termination of his long journey to Constantinople and extensive extracts from "the Green Diary" written up at the time he was only twenty. This covers his peregrinations over the monastic state of Mount Athos, after he left Istanbul. It is therefore much simpler in style with an immediacy that he certainly tried hard to recapture in his later writing - but without the painstakingly rewritten Byzantine prose !

Perhaps one of the reasons Paddy never quite managed to get round to editing his own material for publication was that in this latter part of the journey he dissembled less and gave a more transparent picture of his own character. When he suffers from the blues trudging the Wallachian plain between Tirnovo and Rustchuk he disarmingly admits it, except that his language is different. Today some might say that he exemplifies a mild case of bi-polar disorder - only "disorder" is already too strong and too damning a word to apply to an individual so incredibly sociable and sensitive. I would rather take it as an indication that he was thoroughly normal and that his amazing ability to circumvent his low threshold of boredom could not work in every extreme circumstance !

Be that as it may this book is a pearl for the initiated, not to be by-passed on any account. Moreover, I do not believe the mystique behind the man is in any way compromised - he remains a giant of humanity whose actual seeds of greatness are hard to discern.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars P.L.F. would certainly have approved 19 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A worthy companion to "A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Woods and the Water".We are taken seamlessly on to the end of the journey.Having waited so long for this final book,one was anxious that it might be an anti-climax to read. But no! Savour P.L.F. for the final time. You will not regret it. A wonderful tribute to the fascinating man
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars The broken book - not a patch on the first two
Where to start?

Like everyone else on the planet who read the first two books, I have waited for this book for years.

What a disappointment. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Lightmancer
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last!
Long awaited last book of the Trilogy--well written from PLF's notes
Published 11 days ago by Mrs. Jean G
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Its a book... its well made.
Published 27 days ago by donald avery
4.0 out of 5 stars Long-awaited
Enjoyed reading the long-awaited last section of his journey, but it does not compare with the detailed picture of pre-WW2 Europe of the earlier books. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Goldfinch
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich and satisfying... to the end of the line, and beyond
In 1934, Patrick Leigh Fermor, then 18 years of age, set off to walk from Holland to Constantinople, traversing a Europe that would be largely devastated and irrevocably changed... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John P. Jones III
5.0 out of 5 stars and a few places where more editing would have been useful. But it IS...
As the introduction makes clear. this has been assembled from from material left by PLF; there is an element of repetition, and a few places where more editing would have been... Read more
Published 1 month ago by johnrm
2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn
I do not see the greatness of this writing
Published 1 month ago by Dr. Martin H. Birley
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Worry — It is Just as Good!
I have to confess to the same worry as many of the other reviewers.

This is just as enjoyable — and in many ways as accomplished — as the first two parts of the trilogy. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrew Howell
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, amazing chap
great read ,amazing chap.
Published 1 month ago by george grimmett
5.0 out of 5 stars The last book of the series describing his walk up the Rhine and down...
Patrick Leigh Fermor must be the most evocative travel writer of the last century. KI met him a couple of times in Greece before he died, and he is as charming in the flesh as he... Read more
Published 2 months ago by M. Counsell
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