Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Caribbean travelogue, The Traveller’s Tree (originally published in 1950) has been reissued by New York Review Classics. Here is a brief review from Cleveland’s Plain Dealer.
Fermor, born in London in 1915, is most famous for his accounts of walking from Rotterdam to Istanbul in the 1930s, a two-year odyssey he describes in “A Time of Gifts” and “Between the Woods and the Water.”
This travelogue about Fermor’s trips through the Caribbean, originally published in 1950, captures a sense of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad and Haiti before “the advent of cheap airfare and huge cruise ships made the patronage of sun-catching tourists a replacement, however unsatisfactory, for King Sugar.”
As Joshua Jelly-Schapiro explains in his introduction, Fermor and his traveling companions “are staying not in beachside resorts but at planters’ manors or small inns in tumbledown seaports whose mere existence as “European town[s], in the middle of such violence of flora and elements, seems as unnatural an effect as a swimmer remaining for long periods underwater.”
The Boston Globe enjoyed “Fermor’s richly detailed and ebullient” book and observed that it still stands as a travelogue worth reading 60 years after its original publication.
The paper’s reviewer explained, “What Fermor really likes and describes with infectious elation is the riot of diversity and exotic fusion that these islands have individually acquired from their vicissitudinary histories. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions of the past have left their furious marks, while side narratives of European history appear everywhere, written in frantic and fantastical hands.”
The reviewer acknowledged, however, that portions of ” The Traveller’s Tree” haven’t aged well: “Race is a continuing preoccupation for Fermor and, it must be said that by today’s standards, his unabashed laying down of opinion on the racial characteristics of peoples from different parts of Africa and with the various kinds and degrees of black and white mixtures is unseemly. On the other hand, that is the world of the late 1940s, and he is positively reticent in these matters when compared with Lafcadio Hearn, who visited some of the same islands 60 years earlier.”
For the original review go to http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2011/03/post_8.html