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The Traveller's Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands

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3.9  ·  Rating details ·  168 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
In the late 1940s Patrick Leigh Fermor, now widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest travel writers, set out to explore the then relatively little-visited islands of the Caribbean. Rather than a comprehensive political or historical study of the region, The Traveller’s Tree, Leigh Fermor’s first book, gives us his own vivid, idiosyncratic impressions of G ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published January 11th 2011 by NYRB Classics (first published 1950)
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Andy
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The idea of "travel writing" is, like the term "war poetry", a conceit. A useful conceit, to be sure, but a conceit nonetheless. So to call Paddy Leigh Fermor - man of action, scholar, lover, wit, soldier - a travel writer has the baleful effect of reducing the shimmering depth and breadth of his work to a shorthand. Like his other books, The Traveller's Tree, which recounts his 1949 journey around the Caribbean islands, made with Joan Eyres-Monsell (who would become his wife in 1968) and the Gr ...more
Julie
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was very interesting, learned a lot about the Caribbean and the history of some of the islands. Enjoyed it but it was not a quick read for me.
Luke
Jun 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began reading this travellers' survey of the Caribbean islands because it was mentioned in Live and Let Die as required reading for James Bond on voodoo.

The voodoo-covering chapters on Haiti are probably the most narrative-driven of the whole selection, but they're not as serious as coverage by someone like Alfred Metraux or Maya Deren. That's OK, though, as Fermor's now much-dated quaintness adds a touch of old-world observation to the proceedings that's not entirely unpleasant.

This book is
...more
John
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Good overview of the author's travels in the region just after World War II - long enough ago that the references seem historical, rather than dated. Although he went to Cuba, Fermor says it wasn't included due to not being able to communicate with natives for the language barrier; he does mention Puerto Rico briefly. Haiti is covered in great detail as the penultimate location; the rather drawn out discussion of voudou pretty much ended my interest in the book, so the reasonably brief final cha ...more
Shelley Buck
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm delighted to see this classic being republished. Whether sampling sour-sop fruit in the market, attending unusual religious ceremonies, visiting the lepers of Chacachacare, or describing the breeze-catching windows of Ian Fleming's house overlooking the sea in Jamaica, Fermor demonstrates a remarkable gift for getting into the cultures he visits, and taking us--the readers--along with him. Much of what he records has probably altered or vanished, but we can still visit these islands' recent ...more
Andrew
Dec 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Brilliant. The last of the old world travelers, capturing the foment between a sumptuously violent past and precarious future of cultural free-for all. Not for the impatient of snobbish, polyglot vocabulary. But then again, he's always right in the money, and if there's the right word for something, why not use it?
Chris
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it
A personal traveler's diary in the late 1940s through the smaller Caribbean islands of Guadelope, Martinique, Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Martin & St. Thomas, and then the larger islands of Haiti, Jamaica and finally a brief time spent in Cuba.

The author is quite lyrical and his descriptions are vivid and lively. As he traveled through these various islands with their quite different societies, he made many friends and acqua
...more
Genevieve
Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Ever since falling hard for A Time of Gifts last year, I've been working my way through the rest of Patrick Leigh Fermor's oeuvre, but I had some trepidation about this one: it's his first book, written in the late 1940s, and it's about a journey through the (at the time, still colonial) Caribbean. There just seemed to be a lot of potential pitfalls. And that trepidation was warranted; there are a lot of bits in this book that make for uncomfortable reading.

Leigh Fermor is no jingoistic imperia
...more
R.
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fermor's first book. I wasn't expecting the same enjoyment that I got from his other books, but this really surprised me.

Here is the intense historical focus that would be the hallmark of his future books, but this time aimed at the Carribean islands. Beginning with Arawaks and Caribs, then on through the invasion of the new world by Spain, the follow up invasions by England, France, the Dutch, and even the Danes! And of course, following all of these are the American invasions, of which we hea
...more
Jennifer
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
This book has taken me forever to read. When I was reading it, I was completely engrossed but once I put it down it was hard to go back to. There is incredible imagery in the words, I love being transported to a different place and time, through a turn of phrase or the generation of an image, you can almost taste the muggy jungle air or feel the tropical sun beat down on the beach - this is what kept me reading once I started! Based on a trip from 1947, published in 1950, 65 years doesn't dimini ...more
David Whittlestone
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very well-written book from a previous era. Fermor describes his journeys around the Caribbean in the 1950s. So whilst it does indeed describe certain of the islands, it is of great interest for what it says of the era rather than the islands.

I chose to read only those chapters concerning islands that I have visited or will visit. Of these, Dominica was the most interesting. The island has changed so much over the last 65 years as to be almost unrecognisable. The infrastructure had cle
...more
Mitch
Oct 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, biographical
This is an account of a travel writer, back around 1950, of his travels through the Caribbean. He visited several islands and, as I had a positive impression of his work previously and was at the time living on Dominica (which the book devotes a chapter to), I was happy to read it.

Patrick's strength is in his evocative, almost poetic descriptions of things. Again and again he would throw in an unusual but apt comparison (ex.: the motions of a carnival participant to a sea anenome.) I also found
...more
Andrew
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
PLF is unquestionably one of the finest writers ever. He stands at the pinnacle of 'travel writing' which is an extremely poor genre to classify his writings.
His depth of research, historical contexts, understanding of linguistics and cultures, phenomenal observational and descriptive skills are all interwoven with a flair for the English language.
It's definitely not light-hearted, casual armchair travel reading. I'll admit that there's so much information, depth and substance that I can't take
...more
Daniel Simmons
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Readers might be tempted to dismiss Fermor's observations of the Caribbean islands through which he travels as quaint and outdated; what surprised me, as I read this during my own recent trot through the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica), was how much what Fermor wrote remains salient. Fermor writes beautifully and authoritatively (how much of this was due to his natural facility with languages and people, his polymath background, or his later, post-trip research, I wonder?), and I found myself s ...more
Ruth
May 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
I absolutely loved A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. These were youthful journeys that he wrote about many years later. The Traveller's Tree is his first book, and it lacks the joy and spirit of the books I mentioned. It reads a lot like the standard travelogue. I could care less about the Caribbean islands; I just thought I would get a kick out of Leigh-Fermor's attitude toward life. Unfortunately that doesn't show up much in this book. Less than halfway through I started ski ...more
Polly
Jun 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Definitely exactly what it claims to be (a journey through the Caribbean islands), and while in no way does it compare with Time of Gifts, etc., if you like PLF and can deal with the fact that he was the product of a society which had very different standards than ours (by which I mean principally that his attitude towards the black and indigenous people in the Caribbean will make you unhappy at times--it's a bit "look at the dear little inferiors playing at life", although undoubtedly it could ...more
Judith Rich
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, caribbean
Now definitely of historical interest - everything has changed so much. I would have liked more about Cuba, but the bit about Haiti was particularly interesting.

He tries SO hard to be non-racist and is appalled by racism he sees, but when he's trying to be nice about the Afro-Caribbean locals, he does come across as patronising. His encounter with the new Rastafarians is funny though, as they desperately try to justify their non-existent links to Ethiopia and dismiss anything he says as "white m
...more
Mrs.Lady
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fascinating vintage tour of the Caribbean BEFORE tourists, cruise ships and resorts. The author island hops by inter-island trading vessles, "aereoplanes" and steamship. Written in 1950 it is a view of the Caribbean that is gone forever. An in depth history, an incrdible journey that ranges from the literate to the adventurous, the author mingles with people of all colors and social status.
Cary Steward
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting travel book

Very well written, entertaining and still relevant for today's traveler. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it even though I have not traveled through the Carribean.
Douglas Dalrymple
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, if it were possible. Written in the later forties, this is not at all Fermor's best work, but it's still wonderful, full of weird observations, with hints here and there of the wizardish prose he manages in later books.
Dan Yingst
My least favorite of Fermor's books. Still enjoyable, but there's a lack of connection with the people and, to a lesser though still important extent, the places which made his other books so excellent.
Scott
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Fermor's first travel book.
Christopher
Mar 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I'm not really in the mood for Patrick at the moment. I could really do with Maugham or Waugh, but The Traveller's Tree will have to do on a long multi-stop quicky planning trip to Phuket this week.
Suhail Khaled
Recommended by M to Bond in 'Live an Let Die'
Frank
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of his best books! A remarkable history of the Caribbean Island combined with a first hand description of the land, the people and the architecture.
Jo
rated it it was amazing
Feb 08, 2016
Burns
rated it really liked it
Jun 18, 2012
Mark Weathington
rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2013
Pinaki Majumdar
rated it it was amazing
May 06, 2013
Michele Davis
rated it really liked it
Sep 06, 2017
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Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor DSO OBE was a British author and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Battle of Crete during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer".
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