We managed to get our copy the evening before release at Mr B’s own bibliotherapy session (http://www.mrbsemporium.com/) and what a treat we have. This posthumous publication has been eagerly awaited, the third section of Patrick’s year-long walk from England to Istanbul (Constantinople) made in 1935 when he was 18. This book has been finalised by Patrick’s literary executors, Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper, using completed sections and notes. They have managed a potentially very difficult task wonderfully well, creating something that is genuine. Yet again, the brilliant writing, the descriptions of people and landscapes, shines through. The lands and people Patrick meets are just fascinating. The book takes us from the Iron Gates on the Donau through Bulgaria, back to Romania, then down the Black Sea coast to Constantinople.
Interestingly, there are only scattered notes of his stay in Istanbul – no soaring descriptions of the architecture or the bustle of city life we enjoyed earlier this year. This is curious, but must be a part of the story why the book was never finalised in Patrick’s lifetime. Perhaps the politics of the Ottoman collapse were too raw. The final sections describe Patrick’s first time on Mount Athos, visiting the many different monasteries of that Greek isthmus. Reading these pages, you can see why he was drawn back to the quiet places, as described in his little book on monasteries A Time to Keep Silence.