“Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Published 6:10pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

“Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor

At 18 in age, Fermor was cashiered from school for the high crime of handholding with a local greengrocer’s daughter.

His school exit report noted him as “a dangerous mixture of sophistication and recklessness” – words that sprung him upon a world that few of us dare chance. Made loose, he was off to places where no teacher, no book, no classroom can compete.

With empty pockets, saddled with a rucksack, shod in hobnailed boots, Fermor sets out to explore Europe on his trek to Constantinople. A wondrous story, telling much about the man he was to become — keen observer, a likable adventurer, a risk-lover with the soul of a wandering poet.

It was in Athens where he collided with a Romanian beauty of nobility; in a prolonged idyll they camped in an old, lust-engendering gristmill. In other hours, she painted and he wrote. Perhaps it was there, in those smitten moments when he evolved his style of fertile prose. In World War II, in which, as a commando, he was widely celebrated for the remarkable feat of almost single-handedly capturing a German general in Crete — a man for many seasons, it seems. The war done with, he harnessed himself to the plow of serious writing, as he also took up with, and later married, the daughter of the Viscount Monsell.

The creator of several admired works, Fermor, in this one, siphons vignettes from the journal jotted during his youthful European escapade. Where he slept, whom he met, how he dined and dallied remind us of Blanche DuBois’ lingering words: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers…” Fermor gives us his own kindness, allowing us to go larking with him in this highly enjoyable book. The first of a trilogy, its third part will be released in 2013.

– article submitted by the Book Hounds (David Cudlip)

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