The Violins of Saint-Jacques
By Patrick Leigh Fermor
Patrick Leigh Fermor's first and only novel, now back in print.
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.
Patrick Leigh Fermor is of English and Irish descent. After his stormy schooldays, followed by his walk across Europe to Constantinople, he lived and travelled in the Balkans and the Greek archipelago acquiring a deep interest in languages and remote places. He joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison officer in Albania, fought in Greece and Crete where, during the German occupation, he returned three times (once by parachute). Disguised as a shepherd he lived for over two years in the mountains, organising the resistance, and led the party that captured and evacuated the German Commander, General Kreipe. He was awarded the DSO and OBE, was made Honorary Citizen of Heraklion, and later of Kardamyli and Gytheion.
- Other details
- Publication date:
26 Apr 2004
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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