The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

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When George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England George instantly takes to their new life, but Sabine feels isolated, heat-fatigued, and ill at ease with the racial segregation and the imminent dawning of a new era. Her only solace is her growing fixation with Eric Williams, the charismatic leader of Trinidad's new national party, to whom she pours out all her hopes and fears for the future in letters that she never brings herself to send. As the years progress, George and Sabine's marriage endures for better or worse. When George discovers Sabine's cache of letters, he realises just how many secrets she's kept from him - and he from her - over the decades. And he is seized by an urgent, desperate need to prove his love for her, with tragic consequences...

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Product details

  • Paperback | 448 pages
  • 124 x 190 x 26mm | 299.37g
  • Simon & Schuster Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1847395228
  • 9781847395221
  • 13,430

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About Monique Roffey

Monique Roffey is an award winning Trinidadian-born British writer. She has written four novels and a memoir. Three of her novels are set in the Caribbean and form a loose trilogy which engages with political and environmental issues in the region. The most recent of these Caribbean novels is House of Ashes, published in July 2014. Set on the fictional Caribbean island of Sans Amen, it tells the story of three characters, a gunman, a hostage and a boy soldier caught up in a botched coup d'etat. Archipelago, published in 2012, is both an epic sea voyage and an examination of climate change from the point of view of a man from the southern Caribbean. It won the OCM BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2013. The judges commended it for its 'exploration of the greater Caribbean space in which is embedded a real-life story of trauma and loss and ultimately redemption that is both contemporary and compelling'. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, a story that maps the creolisation of a colonial couple during the early Independence years in Trinidad, received widespread critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2010 and the Encore prize 2011. Her erotic memoir, With the Kisses of his Mouth was published in 2011 to much praise and controversy and was reviewed in the Guardian as 'a subversive work that transcends the author's personal story: it stands alone in the chasm that has opened between feminist literature and the belles du jour brigade'. Roffey has a PhD in Creative Writing and teaches regularly for The Arvon Foundation and the Writer's Lab in Skyros. She is a member of the action group Carib-Lit and teaches and runs workshops regularly in Trinidad too. She divides her time equally between London and Port of Spain. Find out more at

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Customer reviews

It came as no surprise to me to hear Monique Roffey had been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for her novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. As soon as I received it for review I knew I was in for a treat and I wasn't disappointed. Roffey is surely one of the best women novelists around and this tale of Trinidad is as irresistible as her earlier work. Her first novel, Sun Dog, tempted me to buy it after reading an excerpt. It's not easy for a debut novelist to have this effect, but there was something about her fragile anti-hero as he discovered his body was changing with the seasons, sprouting buds between fingers and toes in Spring. I just had to read more and find out about this shy young man working in a delicatessen and rebelling against the commune upbringing he'd had with his hippy mother. The White Woman on a Green Bicycle tempts the reader just as Sun Dog did. The lush landscape of Trinidad makes us feel we're right there, or want to be there. In fact the green hills of Trinidad come so vividly to life that they actually speak to the characters and seduce them or inspire their envy. It might be hard to imagine why one of the main characters, Sabine, doesn't want to live there and craves the London suburban home her husband promised her if she would spend a bit of time in Trinidad while he establishes himself in his job. But, from the first days, Sabine is sensitive to the feeling that Trinidad doesn't want her, doesn't want the white people still living like the colonialists of the past. She's both attracted to Trinidad and its people, and also pushed out due to her compassion and awareness. She agrees with the Trinidadians but she isn't one of them so can't rebel alongside them. Her husband George is different. Like the other men sent there by businesses he can be important in Trinidad, can have a decent job, buy land and build his big house, and move on from the strong love he feels for his wife at the start through a series of affairs as the decades become more permissive. Gradually Sabine realises he will never keep his promise to take her home - this is his home. Her children are Creole and love the island, and she's the only disappointed one: the one who doesn't ever feel she fits in. Roffey's expertise is in telling this story from the point of view of both characters, Sabine and George, and keeping the reader's empathy for both of them. In fact, we can tell that their love for each other has somehow survived. At the start of the book they're both old and resigned to what their life has been, having given up on what they had hoped for, so I've given away none of the plot. Instead of making the reader wait to see what happens we start at the end of their lives and the book lets us see back into various details. The first half of the novel is from George's perspective, as an old man, wanting somehow to redeem himself in his wife's eyes. The second half is told by the young Sabine from the time of her arrival on the island through the first decades of their marriage. I particularly enjoy a book that tells me about the history of a country that I hadn't known about, and Roffey does this in a masterful way. Not long after Sabine and George arrive the Trinidadians are roused to support the charismatic leader Eric Williams who promises to free them from the remnants of colonialism. Sabine is metaphorically seduced by him, empathising with the people, and is emotionally and physically aroused by the atmosphere he creates. I'll say no more, and leave you to discover how Roffey weaves politics, landscape, the personal and the public figures so that the bigger picture and the smaller picture somehow work together. If I have a criticism it's that at times Roffey's style can follow the day-to-day in such a realistic way that it's possible to leave the book down and pick it up again weeks later. This happens in some chapters during the first half where we see George's view of the marriage and Trinidad. Having said that, even his account is interspersed with vivid scenes including the beating of a black teenager by the local police that had me on the edge of my seat. Once the story moves to Sabine's perspective I couldn't get enough of it. There's always a risk when a novelist tells a story through two different viewpoints that the reader will prefer one to the other. Roffey has imagined life through the experience of both George and Sabine so well that it still feels like a major achievement, and no doubt many male readers will empathise more with George. Compassion is a quality I look for in a novelist and Roffey certainly has it. She has written so that we can understand the history of Trinidad and this particular marriage, and she has done it without allocating blame so that we understand the reasons for the failures of individuals and even Eric Williams. The characters come to life in our minds and we remember them as if we knew them, and it's as if we've been to Trinidad or want to go. It's a novel that will stay in the mind like a memory of a real experience, and I highly recommend more
by Adele Ward