At the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off from the heart of London on an epic journey—to walk to ‘Constantinople’. A Time of Gifts is the rich account of his adventures as far as Hungary. Acclaimed for its sweep and intelligence, Leigh Fermor’s book explores a remarkable moment in time. Hitler has just come to power but war is still ahead, as he walks through a Europe soon to be forever changed—through the Lowlands to Mitteleuropa, to Teutonic and Slav heartlands, through the baroque remains of the Holy Roman Empire; up the Rhine, and down to the Danube. At once a memoir of coming-of-age, an account of a journey, and a dazzling exposition of the English language, A Time of Gifts is also a portrait of a continent already showing ominous signs of the holocaust to come.
He wrote a second, equally wonderful instalment Between the Woods and the Water in 1986, which ends in Romania. The third volume never came but A Time of Gifts remains his glorious, romantic celebration of youth.” [The third volume, The Broken Road, was published posthumously in 2013. ed.]
A few years ago I read and reviewed Patrick Leigh Fermor’s short A Time to Keep Silence (). At that time I also picked up several of his other books, excited for the day when I’d sit down and read them. As happens, they fell back in line, but when my brother and I put down a tentative podcast episode, we both knew we’d soon do Leigh Fermor’s famous A Time of Gifts; it turned out to be our second episode (which you can find ). There is much to love in this book, so many paths to walk down, so many stones to turn over, and Leigh Fermor is a wonderful guide. I’ve thought about the book a lot since I finished it, and it just keeps getting better and better.