A Certain Knack

Even at first dip, this book gives the impression of being unreadable to any but the tweediest Anglophile.  There are still such people in the world, you know, and some of them have even been born in Britain.  For them, hearing the names “Lady Diana Cooper” or “St. Pancras” is like a drop of lime juice for a man with scurvy.  At once they feel better.

The legendary Diana Cooper, incidentally, was the author’s grandmother, while St. Pancras is the district of London where the subject of this biography was born in 1915 to a member of the Indian Civil Service, a geologist stationed in Calcutta, and a rather volatile dame who divorced him soon after and returned to live in England.  This is already quite boring, but if you add to it the village of Weedon Bec in Northamptonshire, a vicarage cottage in Dodford, and schools for the young ’un with names like Oundle, Haileybury, and St. Piran’s, it becomes clear why anyone but a Limey wannabe would bin this thing after the first 50 pages.

A certified product of the British middle class, Patrick Leigh Fermor, or Paddy, as he styled himself, had a clever idea as soon as he had come of age.  Unable to get into university, regarded with anxiety by his divorced parents, and having neither independent means nor useful connections, the teenager decided to take a longish walk—from...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here