8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost but not quite the right book
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...
Published 20 months ago by PC
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too close to her subject, too reverential, not balanced enough
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...
Published 21 months ago by Mark Lewis
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich life,
I first encountered Paddy Leigh Fermor's 'A Time of Gifts' on a long coach journey to Budapest some 20 years ago. The writing was so immediate and vivid that I was instantly drawn to this scholar gypsy figure, and I went on to read a lot more. Artemis Cooper's account of PLF's life is full, informative and fascinating, and captures admirably the complex nature of this extraordinary man. It is a saga of romance and courage, of love and loyalties, but at the same time does not gloss over the human imperfections. The style of the book is erudite and very readable, and Artemis Cooper marshalls her material admirably, leaving me with a picture of a man I would very much like to have met. Alas, I never will.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an Adventure!,
PLF has been brought vividly to life here, warts n all, in this fabulously written & researched book by Artemis Cooper.I have enjoyed all of PLF's books,and the highest compliment i could pay this author is i that i have enjoyed this one the most. A great read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to Paddy Leigh Fermor,
I've had the work of Fermor recommended by several people whose opinions I respect. In the end I started my introduction to him with this biography, which very much whetted my appetite for reading Fermor's own books. Some episodes were not rendered in such an entertaining way as I'd read elsewhere (e.g. the W S Maugham incident, about which I'd seen Fermor's own account in a letter on a webpage) but I still found this a thoroughly enjoyable book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny how you can go off people...,
I discovered PLF's books when I was living in Greece, and I thought them wonderful. Perhaps I should have left it at that. The deeper I got into this biography, the less I liked the man. The appalling visit to Somerset Maugham, which could have come straight out of 'Lucky Jim', ends with Maugham summarising him as "that middle-class gigolo for upper-class women". That pretty much nails it.
The book is clearly well researched, and Artemis Cooper manages not to gloss over the less attractive aspects of Leigh Fermor. A few more dates would have helped, though, as I could never work out what year we were in. (And when, after 30-odd pages with no mention of the year, I discovered that we had actually moved on 8 years or so, it merely underlined the fact that PLF never seemed to grow up.)
I'm off to read 'Mani' again now, to see if I can rediscover the old magic and forget the tarnish.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Life of Adventure,
Patrick Leigh Fermor, or Paddy, as he was widely known, has been well-served in this interesting and engaging account of his long and full life by Artemis Cooper. Born in 1915 into a middle-class, somewhat dysfunctional family (his ill-matched parents lived apart for most of their marriage and later divorced), Leigh Fermor's education was disrupted by him being asked to leave more than one school, and the success he later made of his life was achieved by self-education, self-promotion, an intense interest in history, architecture and literature, a particularly good memory and an abundance of energy and charm. After leaving school without the necessary qualifications for university, and then falling into the company of a group of hedonistic acquaintances who frequented the Gargoyle Club, Leigh Fermor decided his life lacked direction, and at the age of eighteen, he made a decision which changed his life. Leaving England shortly before Christmas 1933, Leigh Fermor boarded a ferry for Holland, with just a rucksack, a few books and some letters of introduction, with the intention 'to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople' on his allowance of one pound a week. And this, he accomplished, although he didn't spend his nights 'sleeping in barns and hayricks, eating bread and cheese and living like a wandering scholar' as might be expected, because his very useful letters of introduction (coupled with his natural ebullience and his genuine interest in the people he met) opened a whole new world for him, and on his travels through Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, Leigh Fermor was entertained as a welcome guest in a series of very comfortable country homes.
Whilst staying at the British Embassy in Athens in 1936, Leigh Fermor met the beautiful Princess Balasha, who belonged to one of the great dynasties of eastern Europe, and with whom he fell in love and went to stay at her family home in Romania. Although Leigh Fermor returned to England with Balasha in 1937, they were soon off to Greece and by 1938 were back in Romania. When the Second World War broke out, Leigh Fermor made his way back to England hoping to enlist in the Irish Guards, but with his knowledge of foreign languages, was taken into the Intelligence Corps instead and was later inducted into the SOE, where he was sent into occupied Crete and where he worked with the Cretan resistance in the legendary capture of a German general. Towards the end of the war, Leigh Fermor met his future wife Joan, an interesting woman and a stabilising influence, who coped ably with his ebullience, his bouts of depression, his absences and his sexual infidelities. After the war, amongst other pursuits and enterprises, Leigh Fermor began writing books about his travels, most notably: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube and Between the Woods and the Water written in his unique lyrical prose style, which won him many fans.
This is a very good biography, and although Artemis Cooper's affection for her subject (whom she has known since her childhood) is apparent, this is no hagiography and the author is fair in her handling of her material. She tells the reader about the 'inaccuracies' in some of Leigh Fermor's stories and how some events were embellished or enhanced by him in order to add to the story's allure; she also tells us that although Leigh Fermor was comfortable with both princes and peasants and was liked and admired by many including:Diana Cooper, Ann Fleming, Deborah Devonshire and Lawrence Durrell, he was not an entirely admirable person and not everyone was bowled over by him, finding his ebullience and over-confidence rather overwhelming; in fact Somerset Maugham, offended by Leigh Fermor's insensitive remarks about stammering, referred to him as: 'that middle-class gigolo for upper-class women'. In addition, when one learns of how Leigh Fermor smoked between eighty and a hundred cigarettes a day for decades and drank heavily - his hangover cure was a pint of beer with a double measure of spirits poured into it - one marvels at how he managed to reach the grand old age of ninety-six. In summary, although I would have liked Artemis Cooper to have perhaps delved a little deeper into the person beneath the affable exterior, I found this biography a candid, entertaining and very readable account of a man who lived with an intensity and great appreciation for life, and with a deep fascination for those he met during that extraordinary life - which may well have been the recipe for his longevity.
5.0 out of 5 stars Artemis Cooper's biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor,
This review is from: Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure (Paperback)
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper
Artemis Cooper has written an impressive, scholarly and hugely enjoyable biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor ("Paddy"), who died in 2011 aged 96, a biography that paints a portrait of a remarkable man, traveller, war hero, writer of wonderful prose, linguist and raconteur, a man whose friends wished that he could be marketed in pill form as an antidepressant. A misfit at school, the 19 year old Paddy decided to walk across Europe from Holland to Istanbul in 1933. He joined the army at the outbreak of World War II and served in Crete, where he masterminded the abduction of a German general, later dramatised in the film Ill Met by Moonlight. As a classicist I rejoice in the fact that a shared knowledge of a Horace Ode created a bond between the general and his abductor.
After the war Paddy travelled and began to write about his experiences. His first book was "The Travel Tree" about the Caribbean. Because of his perfectionism, and to the despair of his publisher, Jock Murray, every book took ages to write. Eventually the first two volumes of the account of his walk across Europe "A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Woods and the Water", were published to great acclaim.
After a largely nomadic life, Paddy built a house in Greece where he settled with his soulmate Joan, whom he eventually married, and who sadly predeceased him. Joan and Paddy had an open relationship. Paddy was a serial womaniser - there is a hilarious letter to Joan in which he describes the incursion of pubic lice in terms of troop movements. In spite of her obvious admiration, Artemis Cooper does not shy away from mentioning his vices - his prodigious drinking and smoking habits, his status as a champion sponger (who, however, repaid his hosts with his hugely charming and entertaining presence), and above all his almost permanent writer's block or rather state of procrastination, which meant that the much awaited third volume of his youthful trek across Europe was never published. Artemis Cooper is now editing the material which is to be published shortly under the title "The Broken Road".
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truthful look at Fermor, the (High-Society) Womaniser and Social Climber !,
This review is from: Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure (Paperback)
Artemis Cooper clearly admired Patrick (Mihalis) Leigh Fermor; however, in this honest and forthright biography, she is - as the cover blurb warns us - 'totally candid' about his behaviour.
As a former classicist and lifelong philhellene who is resident in Greece, I had previously only read Paddy Fermor's two specifically Greek travel books: 'Roumeli' and 'Mani', both of which I enjoyed but found occasionally pedantic in their excessive erudition. Cooper gives us the biographical background to the circumstances of the writing of these and all his other books; what emerges is a man who disliked/feared his father and worshipped his mother but who, nevertheless, determines to strike out for independence, at the age of nineteen, by walking across Europe and, on the way, ingratiates himself into the homes of some Of Europe's most aristocratic families. It reads well as a ripping adventure, inspiring me to tackle his pre-war European walk trio, the final part of which, 'The Broken Road', is also jointly written by Artemis Cooper.
'An Adventure' is definitely worth a read, especially for anyone wishing to learn more about Paddy / Mihalis (as he was always known here in Hellas), the man.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
I had really looked forward to reading this biography. Patrick Leigh Fermor led an extraordinary life through fascinating times. But the author has managed to make it sound flat and dull. Her style is so pedestrian that I felt that I was reading a dry school text book rather than the romantic swash-buckling adventure that it could and should have been. I feel like I was reading a different book to the literary reviewers who waxed so lyrical. But I see from other reviews I'm not alone. In the end I gave up. I'll read PLF's life in his own words instead
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but dull,
This official biography, which is based on Leigh Fermor's papers and the recollections of friends, is clearly written and accessible. In places - notably the familiar story of the kidnapping of General Kreipe, the book comes to life but elsewhere it is often irredeemably dull. There is insufficient humour and the author gives too many lists of friends and acquaintances, often without any explanation of their significance.
Another Amazon reviewer has pointed to the fact that coverage of the latter part of his life is too compressed and I was disappointed that Artemis Cooper did not really capture the essence of the Mani or what it meant to her subject. This is relatively little about how Leigh Fermor worked as an author in producing his two most important books - Mani and Roumeli.
The author presents a sympathetic portrait of Leigh Fermor but no real analysis although it is clear from her evidence that he had serious character flaws as well as considerable strengths. The fact that he devoted so much energy to feeding his own oversize ego - as well as being more than happy to live at the expense of others for most of his life - throws more light on his character than his biographer is prepared to admit.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy biography for an outstanding personality of the 20th Century.,
A very well written biography that really brings to life the adventures and experiences of a notable personality of the 20th Century. Artemis Cooper deals dispassionately with a man who was well known to her family and she is well able to highlight his failings as well as Leigh Fermor's notable achievements. The book moves along at quite a pace, unlike most of Leigh Fermor's own writings, and it provides a fascinating insight into the social lives of many personalities in 1920's and 1930's Britain and Europe.
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Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper (Paperback - 27 Jun. 2013)