Between the Woods and the Water begins where its predecessor, A Time of Gifts, leaves off - in 1934, with the nineteen-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor standing on a bridge crossing the Danube between Hungary and Slovakia. A trip downriver to Budapest follows, along with passage on horseback across the Great Hungarian Plain, and a crossing of the Romanian border into Transylvania. Remote castles, villages, monasteries, and mountains that are the haunts of bears, wolves, eagles, gypsies, and sundry religious sects are all savored in the approach to the Iron Gates, on the border of Yugoslavia and Romania. This ruggedly beautiful and historic stretch of the Danube has since been lost beneath the waters of an immense hydroelectric power plant - as indeed so much of the old Europe that Leigh Fermor's pages so vividly evoke was soon to be destroyed in World War II.
Between the Woods and the Water, part of a work in progress that has already been acclaimed as a classic of English literature, is a triumph of Patrick Leigh Fermor's art. For this tale of youthful adventure is at the same time an exploration of the dream and reality of Europe, a book of wanderings that wends its way in and out of history and natural history, art and literature, with the tireless curiosity - and winning fecklessness - of its young protagonist, even as it opens haunting vistas into time and space.