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This review is from: Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure (Hardcover)
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.
There were some chapters where the story came alive, though - the abduction of General Kreipe in Crete and the travels in the Caribbean, for example - I only wished that the rest of the book could have held my attention in this way.
I accept that this may be a minority view, given that the other reviews here are generally more positive - but I don't regret having read this biography and it has certainly kindled my interest in reading more of Patrick Leigh Fermor's books now that I know more about their background.
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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jan 2013 11:21:55 GMT
patrick pisani says:
An excellent review and it reflects exactly my reaction to the book
In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2013 12:54:40 GMT
Thanks, Patrick - appreciate that you took the time to comment. It's difficult to give a book a less-than-glowing review, particularly when you feel your view may be a minority one.
Posted on 11 Feb 2013 22:46:48 GMT
J. Curry says:
I too agree with this review... I did thoroughly enjoy this biography and I would recommend anyone to read it BUT I did find myself questioning Ms Cooper's writing style on a number of occasions, it can appear at times to be a daunting list of names which did not help the flow of the narrative and it certainly left me feeling a little inadequate (socially speaking)!
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2013 08:09:45 GMT
Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think my disappointment stemmed from the feeling that when it was good, it was very very good, so the whole could have been so much better.
Posted on 18 Feb 2013 16:38:32 GMT
Could not agree more with this review. Found the book a disappointment which, taking into account the subject, says something about the way it is written. It just never becomes a page turner and is hard to recommend
In reply to an earlier post on 18 Feb 2013 18:29:08 GMT
Thanks. No, I won't be recommending it either. I might refer back to it as reference at some point when reading another of PLF's own books, but I can't see myself re-reading it.
Posted on 18 Apr 2013 21:38:39 BDT
I quite agree, but we seem to be very much in the minority on this. I read 'A Time of Gifts' and 'Between the Woods and the Water' when they were first published, and loved them, and was very much looking forward to this book, which I couldn't even finish. When Fermor himself is quoted, the book comes alive, but otherwise it is too full of turgid detail, plodding on from one event to the next. I don't think Artemis Cooper is a good writer, just a good researcher who lacks discernment about what to leave out. All her books seem to be about famous persons connected with her family.
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Apr 2013 07:55:03 BDT
Thanks for your comment on my review. All-in-all disappointing and the waste of a great opportunity, unfortunately. I just hope that reading this may lead more people to discover Fermor's own writing. My mother also borrowed the book and she couldn't get past the first few chapters - and she is very widely-read.
Posted on 11 Oct 2013 12:24:44 BDT
Ms. K. Johnston says:
I've read A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water and loved both of them, particularly the first book. Now comes Artemis Cooper's biography of PLF and I thought, good, something to get stuck into. However, I too was disappointed and found PLF a rather irritating presence at times (perhaps he suffered from ADHD??) as he was described as being like a boisterous puppy when a child. For me, the biography will be dipped into rather than read in full as some aspects of it are more interesting than others, particularly his kidnapping of General Kreipe in Crete. At times I found the endless lists of names, famous or infamous, a little wearing and feel this did break up the narrative. On the whole, I like the biography but with reservations as some of it just does not flow well. Thank you for an excellent review!
In reply to an earlier post on 11 Oct 2013 18:11:08 BDT
Thank you too! I am looking forward to reading the new book that's just come out - the third part of PLF's journey (the name escapes me at the moment) despite my reservations about the biography.