Between the Woods and the Water

Between the Woods and the Water, by Patrick Leigh Fermor

I've been putting this book off for a while.  I loved the first book of the three, A Time of Gifts, so much, but it also filled me with longings for travel (in Europe, in the 30s); so I was really looking forward to this one, but also saving it for a treat.  And it really was a treat.  It was a lovely vacation of a book.

Fermor spends the whole book in Hungary and Romania.  It's summer and he spends weeks at Hungarian manors, soaking up history, friendship, language, and fun.  Sadly, at 19 he felt that this was kind of cheating on his trip's rules, and he didn't keep his journal as assiduously as he should have, but he recreates a beautiful summer with lovely and interesting people.  All the while, the reader knows that within a very few years, Hungary will be conquered and all of this ruthlessly stamped out.

In Romania, Fermor tramps through endless forests, meeting all sorts of people and thinking about ancient Romans, Crusaders, and other historical figures.  This is just as wonderful-sounding as Hungary, in a different way. He ends by seeing some cities by boat and then traveling down the Danube to the Iron Gates, which are these huge stone cliffs on either side of the river.  All the wilderness he saw there is now drowned under a water reservoir built for Yugoslavia, though.  And Bulgaria is where he'll go next.

Romania, Iron Gates
 He's always describing all the different people he meets, who belong to all these different groups and religious sects and races.  And there's a lot of history, just sketched in so you know a bit of what's happened in the past.  It's all so beautifully rendered and sounds so wonderful.  You want to go and see it, and at the same time you feel terrible for all the awful things that have happened since.  Much of it just isn't there anymore.  But it's good to read about what once was and know.


  1. I just borrowed A Time of Gifts from the library, but book and other responsibilities make me fear that I'll have to take it back before I can read it. :-) Rats! I was so looking forward to vicariously traveling to Europe since it's not going to happen in real life any time soon.

  2. I enjoyed A Time of Gifts, some lovely vivid descriptions of a time and places that have changed so much!

    Straight after I finished it I bought Between the Woods and the Water, but haven't read it yet. Your post is a timely reminder for me to read it soon.



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