Guest post by Dan Newman, author of The Clearing.
My novel The Clearing is set in St. Lucia, and for those of an adventurous nature, I can’t recommend the place enough; it’s really worth a visit… but you have to get out of the resort and into the heart of the island. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for swim-up bars and five star dining – and you’ll find that in spades in St. Lucia – but stay on the compound and you’ll miss the real St. Lucia… It’s a small island, so getting lost is only a temporary proposition.
St. Lucia has a fascinating history – I won’t go into it here – but suffice to say the English and the French battled for it repeatedly, flinging cannon balls and musket fire at each other while pirates and slavers quietly plied their various trades a few ports further down the coast. As a result, the island’s heritage is rich and varied. As kids we had access to great stretches of bush hiding all these overgrown military fortifications – built over time as the various forces tried to harden their positions. There were gun emplacements, underground bunkers, fortresses and prisons – all just sitting there in the forest, tangled in dense vegetation and quietly waiting for us to find them. On our porch I remember we had a collection of cannon balls, muskets and old shackles – and it was all there in bush for the finding. It was everywhere.
Of course, most of the fortifications have now had the bush peeled back, but it’s all still there, reclaimed by conservation groups and easily accessible on your day trip. A stint in St. Lucia isn’t complete without sitting on a three hundred year old cannon and thinking about the last time it was fired in anger…
As you’ll see in my novel, The Clearing, the island also has its share of large and very old plantations. These were the life-blood of the island, and the expression isn’t just for effect: thousands of slaves were brought to St. Lucia and forced to labour on these great plantations. The culture that developed there borrowed from African traditions and those of other places where slaves were collected en route… and merged with the native Arowaks and Caribs. This lead to unique practices such as Obeah, which is a powerful force on the island that can be put to use for good or bad…
But I digress. Many of the big plantations are still in operation, and many of them offer tours, which is something that can really get you in touch with the island. Most provide lunch of local fare – often grown right there on the estate – and the owners are always happy to tell you grizzly tales of old plantation life. (Go ahead and ask them about the Bolom… and watch their eyes when you do.) Who knows, you may even visit the fictitiously named Ti Fenwe – the real-life estate featured in The Clearing, and not even know it…
But fear not. St. Lucians are just about as welcoming a people as you’ll find anywhere in the world, and – like I said at the beginning – on an island as small as it is, you really can’t get lost for too long.
Thanks to Dan for stopping by and making us all want to go on holiday to St. Lucia! His debut novel, The Clearing, is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Exhibit A.
In 1976, four boys walked into a jungle. Only three came back alive.
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