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A Time of Gifts

On Foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube
Narrated by: Crispin Redman
Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
3 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot - from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and takes the listener with him as far as Hungary.

It is a book of compelling glimpses - not only of the events that were curdling Europe at that time, but also of its resplendent domes and monasteries, its great rivers, the sun on the Bavarian snow, the storks and frogs, the hospitable burgomasters who welcomed him, and that world's grandeurs and courtesies. His powers of recollection have astonishing sweep and verve, and the scope is majestic.

©1977 The estate of Patrick Leigh Fermor (P)2014 Hodder & Stoughton

Critic Reviews

"Nothing short of a masterpiece" (Jan Morris)
"Not only is the journey one of physical adventure but of cultural awakening. Architecture, art, genealogy, quirks of history and language are all devoured - and here passed on - with a gusto uniquely his" (Colin Thubron, Sunday Telegraph)
"Rightly considered to be among the most beautiful travel books in the language" ( Independent)

What members say

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A time of gifts. Patrick Fermor

This is potentially an intriguing story set at a unique time in Europe’s history in the 1930s. I am puzzled by what audience he had in mind when he wrote the tome. He uses a rule that in using words or describing anything , make it as complicated and clever sounding as possible. So clever in fact the majority of well read and vocabulary rich readers, prior to losing patience, will be googling away or referring to their dictionaries after every page. He becomes tedious after few chapters and his self referential erudition so wearing and obvious , he destroys any enthusiasm you might have had for his narrative.

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  • sometomato
  • 27-01-2015

Terrific book, disappointing reading

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I love this remarkable book so much, but I am having trouble listening to this plummy and affected reading of it. Listen to the sample carefully before buying--make sure you're OK with this style of delivery!

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Crispin Redman?

I don't know. Someone who just .... reads.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer Calderone
  • 09-07-2018

Nobody Writes Like This Anymore

I'm doing a cruise on the Danube later this summer so I decided to do some research. The first book I read was a natural history of the river, long on descriptions of hydroelectric dams, but in between the descriptions of the river's current and the Roman ruins there were references to Patrick Leigh Fermor's trip through Eastern Europe. Same with the second book I consulted -- the one that was supposed to be the armchair travel book on the Danube, but turned out to be flat and purposeless. Now acquainted with more than one writer chasing this one, I decided to investigate this Leigh Fermor. It turns out he's one of the last of his kind -- classically educated, straight out of the English middle class, ready to be trained for the peace-time cavalry, and so poor he has to borrow his evening clothes. This is a guy who has inherited the the wealth of Western learning, but has nothing to lose. That's what makes this book both beautiful and exciting. The young Leigh Fermor in this book is just out of school, but he hasn't lost his English public schoolboy's yen for the prank and the reckless adventure. He has his whole life and the entire continent of Europe ahead of him. He also has access to the dying aristocratic class of Eastern Europe. He spends months of his life in their townhouses, on their manors, in their libraries, and at their dining tables and in his recollections -- this book was written from his memory and from the aid of his travel journals well into his middle age -- show us a world at the end of time, ready to be wiped out by the second world war and by communist expansion. So, "A Time of Gifts" is a illustration of two things we've lost from this world.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-05-2018

Read this book. Avoid the audio version.

By all means read Patrick Leigh Fermor’s compelling book but stay away from this slipshod performance. The text is mindlessly -and distractingly over-inflected and there are many mispronunciations in English and other languages, but particularly in the many German passages.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Manfred T Peters
  • 13-01-2017

Great story telling

It is a great story, very well written, probably the author took time in polishing the text, but even so it sounds extremely joyous in telling us his adventures and misadventures in a very lively, colorful and precise description of the places and people he encounters. The only shortcoming that we have in this audiobook is the pronunciation of the non English parts, quite atrocious, but understandable since there are very few narrators, if there is one, that has the range of language knowledge that this book requires.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • 18-11-2017

Lots of flowery talk

Not sure I got much out of the book. I guess I was looking for more information about the area at hand. The way the narrator spoke was enjoyable to listen to. No one I know speaks like that. Probably for good reason.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • John S.
  • 11-07-2015

Narrator didn't seem the greatest fit perhaps?

I wish it weren't so, but I have to say I was mildly disappointed by the book. Part of the problem has to do with the audio narrator's somewhat dramatically effete-sounding style, although he seems to pronounce German phrases (which pop up regularly) like a native. Regarding the text itself, there seemed to be a fair amount of digression at the beginning, detracting from the travel narrative aspect. Moreover, he just seems too comfortable as long as there are English/German speakers at hand, moving from one host to another by word-of-mouth in Germany and Austria. Czechoslovakia seemed a transition zone (remember, Kafka wrote in German not Czech). So, I'm optimistic that the remainder of the trip covered by the sequel will be more adventurous, shall we say.

I was struck that he's hitting eastern Europe during their brief period of inter-war democracy, no empires, no communists. Still, every time he mentions Jews or Gypsies, I cringe knowing what's soon to follow.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • eleanor
  • 29-08-2014

Travel journal

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

yes, fascinating journey beautifully described

What did you like best about this story?

The picture of 1930s Europe

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The time in Vienna

Any additional comments?

A really good read

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Steve_Morris
  • 13-10-2014

Maybe better to read this at leisure

Would you try another book written by Patrick Leigh Fermor or narrated by Crispin Redman?

I am tempted to read the sequel rather than listen to the audio, which I found rather rushed.

What did you like best about this story?

The feeling of landscape and the times of the period between the wars. People's values and way of life are very well captured.

What three words best describe Crispin Redman’s performance?

Sounds like JustAMinute. It felt like he was racing not to hesitate, deviate from the subject or otherwise be caught out by Nicholas Parsons. I suppose there are a lot of words to read, but I found the delivery tiring after a while.

Was A Time of Gifts worth the listening time?

Yes I did enjoy it, but I am not sure about Listening to the sequel.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark H
  • 05-12-2014

An unusual, sometimes magical, travel book

I found this a rather strange book. I am glad that I listened to it, yet I am also rather ambivalent about its faithfulness. My reason is that the author, an upper-class, precocious and scholarly youth, walked across Europe in the early 1930’s as an 18yr old, but does not seem to have written up his account until 1977, when he would have been in his 60’s. Taken as a whole, I found it an impressive piece of writing, although there were times when I thought it was pretentious and prolix. However, if you immerse yourself in the world that Leigh Fermor invokes, and listen to the poetic and sometimes fantastical quality of his prose, and take it as an ‘out of the box’ reading experience, then I think you will have to give credit to the intellect that conjured it up. It may be uncharitable, but I suspect it was mainly written to satisfy the authors ego and to relive memories of youth. As I said, I am really glad to have listened to it, but I shall not be re-reading it, or choosing this author again. Too harsh perhaps.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ken
  • 23-02-2015

Go Along For The Ride

I found that once I had got past the initial cynicism that invariably occurs everytime I read memoirs by people who seem able to recall every single detail of events that occurred ages ago and stopped wondering how they could have remembered it all (particularly with diaries being lost, copious quantities of drink consumed, etc.!) and simply concentrated on the story he was telling, this made a wonderful account of events that could, and possibly did, more-or-less take place in an era that is now, quite literally, history. Basically, it helped to adopt the journalistic maxim of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

As someone whom my art historian friend would quite rightly describe as a 'complete intellectual peasant' I did find the lengthy musings on schools of painting, architectural styles and linguistic derivations as rather irritating 'fillers' that interrupted an otherwise great, and frequently funny, story and found the idea of an 18-year fixating on whether or not Shakespeare's reference to 'the coast of Bohemia' was geographically and historically accurate somewhat bizarre - didn't he have other things to worry about? - but these were minor 'bumps in the road' compared to the overall enjoyment I derived. In fact, approaching the end of this book it was an easy decision to buy the next two books in the trilogy.

Much of the credit for my enjoyment must go to the wonderful narration of Crispin Redman - I only wish I could give him 10 stars instead of 5. What an absolutely wonderful case he makes for audible books. If there is some way by which my appreciation of his performance could be passed-on I would be delighted.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • S
  • 30-09-2017

Geat story spoilt by narrator

I love this book but found the audio version seriously spoilt by the narrator. For a book largely set in German-speaking countries, & with many snippets of German, amongst other languages in the text, someone able to pronounce the language properly would have been a better choice; some of Crispin Redman's attempts are virtually unintelligible. Also his atrocious 'Allo-'Allo style cod-German accent when rendering quotes from German-speaking protagonists is rather wearing after a while.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Trevor Davis
  • 02-09-2016

Spoilt by inappropriate narration.

I first read the first two volumes shortly after they were published and I thought it would be enjoyable to listen to these again before listening to The Broken Road. I wish I had just bought the third volume and read it.
This is a book, not a play. I am possibly in a minority but in an audiobook I want the book to be read, not acted. Crispin Redman reads as if this were a soliloquy, giving almost every word an exaggerated emphasis. This, and the high-speed delivery of someone who seems over exited and wants to blurt out the story in the shortest time, is very quickly tiring to me.
I would prefer a measured, relaxed reading. The words and one's imagination are all that is required.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kevin Viney
  • 02-07-2015

Beautifully evocative

Capturing the time and the place wonderfully.
Patrick Leigh Fermor deserves his reputation as a travel writer of note.
I will definitely be reading the other two volumes of his travels.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Philip Wood
  • 12-10-2019

inspirational story

inspirational story of a young man's trip across Europe. very good read. I would recommend.

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  • Christopher Slyper
  • 23-04-2019

Enthralling book if you love history and adventure

This book really captures the naivety of a young man on an extraordinarily adventure which at his age and experience would be inconceivable today, especially with such little money. I travelled on pretty much the same route to Budapest (by train) from London and am amazed at how well this book captures the cities, especially Vienna. It was like reliving my travels! Needless to say I'll be downloading the next book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-01-2019

PLF is a treasure trove of brilliance

In 'A Time Of Gifts' PLF, as in the other two books of this trilogy, manages to combine the youthful energy and enthusiasm of his younger self, with the erudition and vast arstistic, geographic and historical knowlege of his elder self. The result of this heady mix is PLF's own brand of hefty and vivid descriptions of his exciting, and didactic, secular pilgrimage across Europe at the age of 18.