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Broken RoadSummary: The long-awaited final volume of the trilogy by Patrick Leigh Fermor. A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water were the first two volumes in a projected trilogy that would describe the walk that Patrick Leigh Fermor undertook at the age of eighteen from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. ‘When are you going to finish Vol. III?’ was the cry from his fans; but although he wished he could, the words refused to come. The curious thing was that he had not only written an early draft of the last part of the walk, but that it predated the other two. It remains unfinished but The Broken Road – edited and introduced by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper – completes an extraordinary journey.

Even now so many years on his descriptive style makes you feel as if you are walking alongside him. His brilliant ability to notice even the smallest detail – such as a finger of nails of workers is amazing. Though there I found the description of the pig being killed quite gory and the little boy playing with its intestines! At times it’s hard to believe that he is writing about life in 1930’s, therefore less than 100 years ago when it seems more like 1830’s. That does however give you a sense of how much life must have changed for these people after WWII. One reason I thought this book was amazing was that he captured the feel of the times when writing it all down years later between which WWII would have happened. He does bring vividly to life a world that is not that far away but no longer exists with amazing special moments when he stumbled upon for instance the group by the Black Sea who proceeded to dance the night away
Yet PLF does have humour in parts, particularly when he got rid of his stalker though he did reappear – did he really take the rucksack? You could feel his pain and despair when his notes were taken from his rucksack and he does not portray any innocence of being a 19 year old.

The book changes about 2/3 of the way through and there is a dramatic difference in writing styles once we leave the memories and go to the diary where it’s much more practical. It is hard to believe that he was only 19 when he did this journey and then when he reaches Mount Athos on his 20th birthday.
A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Sheila O’Reilly
John Murray/£9.99/9781848547544

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