Top positive review
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Seductive and brilliant
on 23 November 2010
Patrick Leigh Fermor is the greatest living Englishman; admittedly the competition isn't very stiff at the moment. This book is of course brilliant. It is full of 'flowery language' and by page 50 you will have given up everything else in life to get on with it. The only thing it lacks is a sustained PLF flight of fancy like the Last Emperor of Byzantium riff or world-spanning cock-crow from 'Mani', or certain passages from the On Foot to Constantinople books; otherwise it is every bit as good as them.
Among other treats he gatecrashes a wedding of the elusive and mysterious Sarakatsans; visits the Boliarides of the Kravara, a tribe of cunning and far-travelling mendicants, learns their unique cant and hears tales of their glory days conning the credulous the length of Eastern Europe; penetrates the clifftop monasteries of Thessaly; propounds his theory of the Romois-Hellene split in the Greek national psyche; reminisces of his time on Crete during the war; and tells the story of the remarkable Lady Wentworth and Byron's lost shoes. He magically evokes the charm of the people and the beauty of the landscape, and his own charm and brilliance, his infectious enthusiasm and insatiable curiosity, shine out constantly, and you learn something new and wonderful on every page.
If you're already a Leigh Fermor addict you don't really care about this review, and only poverty, coma, or being trapped down a mineshaft have prevented you buying this book already. If you aren't, all you need to know is that he's the best travel writer of the past hundred years, and quite arguably the best writer in any field living.