Ben Oliver


The Traveller’s Tree

05 June 2022

A travelogue charting a journey through the Caribbean in the late 1940s.

The number of untranslated quotes in this book would have been enough to make be bail out on it, were I not a French speaker. Once you can get attuned to a certain level of stuffiness and wordiness Fermor rewards you with a rare level of insight, attention to detail and an infectious sense of adventure.

His level-headed observant style survives the test of time, turning a contemporary account of a journey into a useful time capsule of the islands just after the war. It’s an area built almost entirely on the slave trade, and it feels like in 1949 he got there just in time to capture details that would otherwise be lost to time.

Fermor constantly tries to join the dots between African culture and the Caribbean, while also seeking out traces of indigenous history. It’s a brilliant and thorough account of a fascinating area written by someone keen to set aside the usual imperialist view of history.

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