Top critical review
65 people found this helpful
on 5 December 2012
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.