Black and White Sands

A Bohemian Life in the Colonial Caribbean

Elma Napier
Publication date: 2009
Paperback: 260 pages, black and white photographs
ISBN: 9780953222445
Price: £10.99
also an ebook

Elma Napier’s remarkable memoir chronicles her love affair with Dominica. It began in 1932 when she turned her back on London’s high society to build a home in Calibishie, then a remote village on Dominica’s north coast.

There are tales of bohemian house parties, of war and death, smugglers and servants and, above all, of stories inspired by her political life as the only woman in a colonial parliament, her love for the island’s turbulent landscapes and her curiosity about the lives and culture of its people.


I envy Elma Napier for realising that most romantic of dreams: falling in love with a tropical island and deciding, like Robert Louis Stevenson, to make a life there.

One of the most remarkable things about this remarkable woman is that she could write – and how! I can’t think of any evocation of a beautiful place more vivid than this.

Elma Napier had the gift to draw the reader in to the complexity of her experience in Dominica – its comedies, sadnesses, frustrations, deep satisfactions. A woman I won’t forgot…a book that people will love.

Diana Athill, prize-winning writer and former publisher>

[Napier’s] detailed descriptions of exploring Dominica, the frustrations of trying to implement change and improvement, and life in the colonial Caribbean during the war years, all make fascinating and very entertaining reading…A precious book, Black and White Sands is sure to captivate readers.

Paul Crask, Caribbean Beat

A beautifully written memoir: the prose sparkles, the anecdotes are lively, the descriptions capture a natural world of wonderful richness and variety….Few books ever written give a better sense of what Elma Napier calls Dominica’s “mysterious charm”, a charm which has continued to entangle many visitors in its sweet embrace.

Peter Hulme, New West Indian Guide

Mosquito Net at Elma Napier’s Estate, inspired by Black and White Sands

The mosquito net above the bed,
ghost of a writer who once visited her.

The spirit leaves the body above a caved
in mattress, sunken, about to collapse.

So many fictions dreamt on it. The muslin
ties at the bottom like a mango heavy in

a string market bag she bought in Baptiste.
Hangs like an exclamation mark for

the filmy subconscious more vivid than
the mountain view outside the window.

And more present than the mosquitos
gathering on its airy white slopes at night.

by Nancy Anne Miller. Published in Poetry Ireland Review, 126, 2018

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