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August 26, 2019


#Non-fiction A Time of Gifts

by N@ncy




  1. If you are looking for a nice rambling
  2. …colorful travelogue this is not the book for you.
  3. The travel diaries (1933) have been combed through
  4. and embellished to create this book in 1976.
  5. The narrative lacks a spark of spontaneity because
  6. Fermor’s travel thoughts have been resting for many years
  7. and the book suffers from many rewrites before it was
  8. …finally published.
  9. In all fairness, the book was received with
  10. tremendous enthusiasm (1976).
  11. It won:
  12. Thomas Cook Travel Award
  13. International PEN/Time Life Silver Pen Award
  14. W.H. Smith Prize (1978)
  15. So…you may still like this book
  16. …but I did not.


Strong point:

  1. Nicest passages are during Fermor’s walks
  2. through the countryside from village to village.
  3. No history, no hangovers, no libraries, no castles with
  4. moat and polished wood floors
  5. …just nature.


Strong point:

  1. Book oozes a special kind of personalized disorder!
  2. Fermor blends history, literature, biography, myth
  3. with his visits to cathedrals, libraries, pubs  with or
  4. without a hangover!


Strong point:   ‘The Hook”…that kept me reading

  1. Ch 1: Low Countries: good…
  2. Vivid images of boat leaving the estuary of the Thames River
  3. …describing Dutch landscape and interiors with comparisons
  4. of great paintings Brueghelish
  5. ….skaters, hunters in the snow.
  6. Fermor keeps his writing centered on his travels
  7. …no long daydreams or history.


Weak point:

  1. Up the Rhine:
  2. The book does not flow
  3. ….gets bogged down
  4. in Fermor’s musings:
  5. Fermor interjects the travel narrative
  6. ….with memories, historical trivia:
  7. …going back fourteen years  (pg 43)
  8. …memories of school learning  (pg 82)
  9. …theater for so much history  (pg 92)
  10. …landsknechts in time of Emperor Max I  (pg 96-101)


  1. Winterreise:
  2. Fermor admits it himself
  3. …slowing the narrative down!
  4. “…I must try to convey, even if it slows things
  5. up for a couple of pages.” (pg 123-133)


  1. The Danube: Seasons and Castles
  2. Brooding over one’s ignorance of painting (pg 147-156)
  3. …again slowing down.
  4. The Danube: Approach to a Kaiserstadt
  5. …let us run quickly through
  6. ..the relevant part of the story (The Tempest)
  7. …again slowing down (pg 170-171)


Fermor fills Vienna (3 week visit)

  1. …with anecdotes
  2. …not much wandering around the town.
  3. Hangover after last days of Carnival
  4. …visit to Akademie Library…
  5. …more musings about history and maps.


The Edge of the Slav World = …all history



  1. Cathedrals are always important part of the narrative
  2. (Cologne, Vienna, Prague)
  3. …but we end up with …another hangover
  4. …another library in The Old University
  5. …more history.


Slovakia: A Step Forward at Last

  1. Sorry, my eyes glazed over during this chapter
  2. ??


Marches of Hungary

  1. Fermor …cites direct long passages of  his diary
  2. …perhaps he was too tired ( as I am now) to elucidate
  3. on this chapter.


Book ends…

  1. As a young man, the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor
  2. walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1933/34.
  3. A Time of Gifts (vol 1) ends on the
  4. Maria Valeria Bridge in Slovakia.
  5. Fermor has difficulty leaving Slovakia
  6. and plunging into Hungry
  7. …but he must move on.


Last Thoughts:

  1. I’ve really lost interest (57%)
  2. I kept up with Fermor from
  3. December 1933 …leaving England
  4. and just lost interest in February 1934
  5. in the little village of Maidling Im Tal, Austria
  6. Just skimming to finish the book.
  7. The BEST travel book I’ve read  was
  8. Deep South (2015)  by Paul Theroux!
  9. Now, that was an excellent book
  10. …worth your reading time!






8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 26 2019

    I have a real soft spot for Patrick Leigh Fermor. I read this book years and years ago, fortunately around the same time I discovered the slow movement. So I took my time with this book, and read it slowly, absorbing his story and his walk over about 6 months. From the beginning I liked the man a lot and found him fascinating and wanted to enjoy his book and mostly I did. But I get how you also found some of the sections towards the end dry and bogged down. I seem to recall the time in Romania with the gypsies as being particularly hard slog.

    Walking through a world long gone thanks to the ravages of WWII created a sense of nostalgia. I found all the historical detail interesting, but then I’m a little weird like that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aug 26 2019

      I’ve a soft spot for Paul Theroux….try Deep South and see what I mean. Thanks so much for your comment….xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aug 26 2019

    I remember liking this one a lot when I read it several years ago but I can’t remember much about it, or I get it mixed up with the second travel volume he wrote. I haven’t gotten around to the third one yet, so I guess it wasn’t completely mesmerizing for me, but I like a recollection after time has passed so that aspect doesn’t bother me as much. Was interesting to get a recap of it here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aug 26 2019

      I loved the first chapter….leaving UK…visiting the Low Countries
      … I live in The Netherlands so it was wonderful to read Fermor’s impressions.
      I kept up with Fermor through Germany…but once he hit Austria (politial, historical ramblings)..I lost him. Not reading any more bij P. Fermor. I did try to prepare for this book by reading about his wife and their marriage….the more insight in to the author the better! Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aug 26 2019

        Oh that sounds interesting, I actually don’t know anything about his wife so I’ll check that out!

        He did have some wonderful impressions of certain places, I liked that too. But I agree, too many political and historical ramblings can really bog down a travel narrative.

        Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #TBR 2018 update 26.08.2019 | NancyElin
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