Alec Waugh first saw the West Indies on a trip round the world in 1926 when his ship called in at Guadeloupe. Fifteen months later he returned for a long stay at Martinique; it was the beginning of a lifelong interest in these fascinating islands that were to provide him with the material for many books and articles. In The Sugar Islands, a book to be dipped into at leisure, Mr. Waugh has selected pieces from his writings, with the intention of compiling both a travelogue (there is a wealth of interesting information for the would-be traveller about the ways of life and customs of each island) and a chronological commentary on the development of the islands during the last thirty years.
The book is divided into four parts. In the first, the author gives an idea of the background of the West Indies by drawing a detailed picture of the colourful life of Martinique. He tells the story of a 17th-century Frenchman who joined the famous pirates of Tortugja and the history of the long bloodbath that preceeded the declaration of independence of Haiti, the Black Republic. The second part of the book comprises four character sketches, including three stories of black magic, and two sections deal with the individual charm and interest of each of the islands: Montserrat, Barbados, Anguilla, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Tortola, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Saba, Antigua, Dominica and Puerto Rico.