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.
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