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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 listeners say about A Time of Gifts

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  • 30-09-17

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.

6 people found this helpful

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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.

11 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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.

6 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

4 people found this helpful

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sunrise of Nazism

Absorbing account of Patrick's trek across five countries in Europe including Germany and the rumbling emergence of Nazism. Excellent narration.

1 person found this helpful

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Timeless and brilliant work; appalling narration

PLF's brilliant book ruined by terrible narration. The worst thing about the narrator is not his consistent mispronunciation of not just foreign words but also perfectly common English ones, but his habit of laying the stress on the least significant words in every sentence, thus distorting the sense. This hinders enjoyment and even comprehension throughout. Such shamelessly horrific narration of this classic work should not be allowed.

1 person found this helpful

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Fabulous

I wondered initially if the very full and wordy descriptions might become a little heavy as the book went on, but in fact I never tired of them and the effect of the descriptive passages in the audiobook was to create wonderful mental images of the places and events. It succeeded in drawing me in so that I could hear the crunch of the snow underfoot, visualise the people and feel the relief of a night spent in a proper bed in the depths of winter. There were many very funny moments, and many literary allusions not all of which I was quite up to, but it was satisfying when the penny dropped. The vocabulary is wonderful and reminds you of how much of our language we do not bother to use. His obvious fascination for the origins of things - words, peoples, philosophies, architecture, art - is absolutely gripping. He is man who needs to categorise and understand, and I sympathise with him (though he was rather more educated on all of these things at 18 than most of us would be today - was that hindsight?) This has risen to the top of my favourite book list and I know I will come back to it in the future. BUT - I have docked Crispin Redman one star for the performance because of a) the woeful number of mis-pronunciations of ENGLISH words - "gun-wailes" being one of the worst b) his annoying accidents with German which the producers should have been on top of and which made several passages incapable of interpretation and c) his really annoying habit of dropping his "g" at the end of words ending in "ing". For an audiobook all these things are important. But apart from these things his narration was excellent.

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  • Jennifer Calderone
  • 09-07-18

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • sometomato
  • 27-01-15

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Phip Herrick
  • 02-06-21

A bit too much “brio” on the readers part.

I maybe the only listener who feels distracted by the readers’s enthusiasm from the beauty of Fermor’s language. I can’t quite capture the flow of the sentences due to an astonishing amount of excessive expression. I can’t see well enough to read, otherwise I’d have listened to my nerves and read the book instead.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-05-18

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 person found this helpful

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  • M. T. P.
  • 13-01-17

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 person found this helpful

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  • John S.
  • 11-07-15

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 13-03-20

A travelers tale

Man. This is a fun story. It’s not so much about the places. Rather what he thinks of the people and situations. Just fantastic.

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  • Steve
  • 18-11-17

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 people found this helpful