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On an Aegean island one summer, an English traveller meets an enigmatic elderly Frenchwoman. He is captivated by a painting she owns of a busy Caribbean port overlooked by a volcano, and, in time, she shares the story of her youth there in the early twentieth century.

Set in the tropical luxury of the island of Saint-Jacques, hers is a tale of romantic intrigue and decadence amongst the descendents of slaves and a fading French aristocracy. But on the night of the annual Mardi Gras ball, catastrophe overwhelms the island and the world she knew came to an abrupt and haunting end.

The Violins of Saint-Jacques captures the unforeseen drama of forces beyond human control. Originally published in 1953, it was immediately hailed as a rare and exotic sweep of colour across the drab monochrome of the post-war years, and it has lost nothing of its original flavour.

Reviews

Excellent ... A graceful picture of life on an unusual and exotic island that has both colour and charm
Times Literary Supplement
A brilliant set piece ... Patrick Leigh Fermor has a fine visual imagination
New Statesman
A stylish and accomplished piece of sustained good writing ... with a strange beauty
Glasgow Herald
Patrick Leigh Fermor evokes the imaginary past with unremitting devotion ... enchantingly pretty
Observer
Elegant and vividly exotic ... The story of the island and the echoing romance of its last Mardi Gras is done with brilliant aesthetic feeling and with a charming philosophic melancholy
The Times
This little masterpiece is a perfect tour de force
Simon Winchester
An exuberant and highly-developed traveller's tale, garlanded with deeply enjoyed and lovingly precise detail
Sunday Times
Beautiful is the adjective which comes uppermost ... [Patrick Leigh Fermor] is a writer with outstanding descriptive powers
John Betjeman, Daily Telegraph
Bringing the landscape alive as no other writer can, he uses his profound and eclectic understanding of cultures and peoples ... to paint vivid pictures - nobody has illuminated the geography of Europe better
Geographical Magazine
brings alive the glamour and the passions of the planters in their heyday
Geographical Magazine
John Murray is doing the decent thing and reissuing all of Leigh Fermor's main books ... But what else would you expect from a publisher whose commitment to geography is such that for more than two centuries it has widened our understanding of the world?
Geographical Magazine