We were about to post the second addition to the TPM Book List, Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the book is out of print. So it's not appropriate for the book list (we'll be adding a replacement soon). But I still couldn't help sharing with you how marvelous a book it is.
The book is classic travel-writing. Fermor, an Englishman and classically so, was born in 1915. And in 1934 he more or less walked from Holland to Constantinople. It took him about eighteen months. The first leg of the trip is chronicled in a book called A Time of Gifts, regrettably also apparently out of print.
Between the Woods and the Water covers travels through Hungary and Rumania. I'm actually not sure whether the third installment was ever written, or for that matter whether Fermor is still alive to write it.
Purely as a piece of writing the book is beautiful and a wonderful read. But the ever-present subtext is the Second World War. Not only will many of the characters in the book -- the people Fermor meets and attaches himself to along the way -- be dead in a decade. More than that, you realize that this whole world will disappear. Shattered first by the on-rush of fascism, both domestic and German, then ripped apart by the war, then smothered under decades of rule as Soviet client-states.
This could easily play like an easy cliche. (I would expect it to if I were reading this short review.) But in Fermor's hands it's something far richer and grand. He manages to tell a captivating story, which captures the un-rushed nature of the moment, while weaving it together with an effortless mix of erudition and history.
It's out of print so I don't want to spend too much time on it. But this is a book you can fall in love with. Amazon appears to have a few used copies available.
By all means, grab one if you can.