Hotel Barbados is a memoir from hotelier John Chandler during his time as an employee and eventually owner of the Ocean View Hotel. This hotel was previously located in Hastings Christ Church but was demolished after the hotel ran into financial difficulty by the Bank. The book details his experiences with guests, staff, the rich and famous and hilarious experiences throughout his life. For those who love pictures, this book also includes images from throughout the years. This book was informative in so many ways and definitely a joy to read.
Quite a dramatic way to start a review of this book, but let me explain. After reading this book I feel robbed as a Barbadian youth. I feel robbed of my history, culture and heritage. I had the privilege of meeting Mr John Chandler in his Antique Store, as we discussed the book he made sure to inform me the book was funny but for me this book was so much more. This book was insight, and probably will be the first book I will read twice in my life. There was so much Barbadian history mentioned between its pages that I knew nothing about. It gave me an idea on how Barbados was run and operated, from what happened before there were cars to more importantly how the tourism industry that means so much to us as a country started, when Barbados was still a colony.
The Ocean View was closed in the year that I was born, 1996. As I pass along the south coast road I have no idea of the beauty and history that was once found in that open lot with an ocean view. Naturally, I thought the only story to be told was of the old Caribee Hotel which now sits abandoned next to the very place that the Ocean View once stood. I often wondered who lived in those old classic houses along the coast in years past, what were their lives like? Before all I could do was assume, most of the classic houses on the coast have turned into businesses, similar to the Belleville area but the architecture points to a more colorful history than the present use.
This book transported me to another time, a time of glamour, fun and festivities. Often times when reading this book I quite forgot that it was fact. After remembering, it made this book that much more fun to read. A quick google search of the persons mentioned really brought the book to life. It was a gentle, fun reminder that there was a world I knew nothing about. These tales aren’t covered in history, in school we were never taught about the social situation of Barbadians in years past. Shows such as the Throne on Netflix gave us a view into the lives of royalty such as Princess Margaret, but this book brought the lives of the rich and famous home, to Barbados or even nearby on the island of Mustique.
In conclusion, John Chandler blessed me in more ways than I think he knew when he handed me his book that morning. He handed me something I longed for, searched for but could never find. Documenting and preserving our history is never at the top of the list in Caribbean countries and the ones who truly suffer are the future generations who are in essence robbed. I felt tearful at some points during the book because as much as I got lost in the pages I will never be lost in the corridors of the hotel, I will never have the chance to see the Ocean View Hotel with my own eyes. Sadly, it is gone, but fortunately John Chandler has etched it into history by putting his experiences into words, and for this I am truly grateful.