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on 1 October 2013
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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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2013
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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on 19 September 2013
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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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2013
To me, as to many readers, those final words - 'to be concluded' - of Between the Woods and the Water were unexpected and anti-climactic. It left the 19-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor sitting happily on a boat in the Danube with the Romanian town of Orsova a few miles away on the north bank and the (now Serbian) town of Severin a few miles away to the south.

During the 27 years after the publication of 'Between the Woods in the Water' Patrick Leigh Fermor - Paddy to everyone who knew him - made a number of attempts to write the story of the final part of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. Working from fragmentary diaries and an uncertain memory he was still trying to complete the manuscript when he died in 2011.

Artemis Cooper and Colin Thurbron - his editors and literary executors - faced a daunting and near-Herculean task in attempting to edit and complete the story. But they've succeeded - and in the process produced a manuscript that retains both Paddy's unique and near lyrical style of writing and his detailed knowledge of the religions, languages and customs of the various countries through which he walked.

The touches of humour in the book - particularly when, arriving late at night on outskirts of Budapest, Paddy mistakes a brothel for a down-market hotel - are delightful. Then, a few pages later whilst hiking along a stony beach-side path late at night, he manages to fall into the extremely cold sea - and is rescued by a group of near-nomadic Bulgarian fishermen. He spends some time living with them in their cave, drinking slavo and trying desperately to work out the origins of their Greek dancing...

The original manuscript ends, quite literally, in mid-sentence with Paddy still some miles outside Constantinople. Unfortunately we're told very little about his stay in the city but (although Paddy would probably have wished otherwise) Artemis Cooper and Colin Thurbron have included the diary entries of his stay, in January and February 1935, at a number of monasteries on the Orthodox Monastic State of Mount Athos. It makes an excellent finale and is an almost natural lead-in to A Time to Keep Silence, the fascinating story of the time he spent many years later living almost as a novitiate at a number of Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries in France. Well worth reading.

Why only four stars? Perhaps because, for obvious reasons, it's not quite the Patrick Leigh Fermor whose other books I've so thoroughly enjoyed.

But, before you start reading 'The Broken Road', you'll probably find it helpful to print out a map of Bulgaria which includes the southern part of Romania plus, to the south, just a little of Greece.

Read and enjoy.
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on 5 October 2013
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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on 31 October 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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on 23 September 2013
This book is like a rare vintage wine, sip it gently and don't binge drink. Having said that the prose skips along and it is mesmeric in its way. The book offers a picture of a vanished world, but reassures us that values of adventure and friendship survive. I recommend this book unreservedly - I've read all PLF's other books and they long ago formed the basis for my own stuttering career as a hack. This book is fuel for dreamers, walkers and anyone who believes life ultimately is the greatest gift of all time.
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on 21 November 2013
A thoroughly enjoyable conclusion of Paddy's `Great Trudge'. Some reviewers have commented that it doesn't stand alone as a book. Although there's a good introduction to Paddy's walk across Europe, I think the main audience will be fans who've already been enchanted by his earlier volumes. Hence, they know that they've diving straight into the continuation of a journey. As others have noted, the text is an early draft with some revisions made in the last years of Paddy's life. It's therefore a little inconsistent, and does have some weaker portions. The Bucharest section was a little lacking for me but I loved Bulgaria. There truly are some amazingly beautiful descriptions to be found here. It's almost unbelievable that Paddy didn't see what a jewel he already had, and got down to the polishing and refining in the period between Vol. 2 and his death in 2011. There are so many memorable scenes and some of the descriptions must rank amongst his best. The unevenness of some portions is balanced by the freshness of meeting a more vulnerable, home-sick, authentic Paddy than that which emerges from his more polished Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. The cover artwork is lovely and it's a worthy conclusion to an epic trilogy.
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on 27 November 2013
For enthusiasts for the wonderful books of Patrick Leigh Fermor (and they are many), this third posthumous volume of the story of his walk across Europe just before WW II is essential reading. I gave it four stars rather than five because obviously it cannot be as good as it would have been if he'd finished it himself. There are a number of bravura passages that will capture new readers as well although I recommend you start with the other two volumes.
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on 7 June 2015
Well, it's over, and we can let Patrick Leigh Fermor depart in peace. I had re-read the books, but it was ten years ago, and it was a bit of shock returning to Leigh Fermor after so long. I loved the first two books, and these are different. What was fascinating was the "Green Diary" excerpt at the end, the contemporary diary of his trip to Mount Athos, directly after he reached Constantinople. When you see this, the raw material, and you read what obtained once he had re-written, you can see why it took him so long.

It took me a while to get into this, and I wondered what had changed. Are we less tolerant of this sort of prose than we were in the 80s? Has time made us a bit more cynical about the lost era that he defined? Or am I just older and more cynical than when I first read these books? I'm not going to answer these questions, but what's interesting about this book is that it also touches on these questions. There is an interesting discussion about what he remembers from the actual journey, and what he remembers from subsequent visits. There is also an interesting side discussion of his parents, and his feelings on receiving letters from them. He is clearly tempted to talk about what happened later, but he doesn't.
It's also clear how much his prose style developed - the "Green Diary" seems jejune by comparison with his rewriting, but then, it was written when he was barely 20, and he had a lot to learn. His prose style is so wonderful, you understand how much work it took him to re-write, to reach the quality that he wanted, and then to dial it back so that there is coffee along with the whipped cream. You can see the work that it took to make it seem effortless. But I shall be coming back and coming back to this.
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