The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

This is a story of a newly married couple, George and Sabine, who, still in the new flush of love move to Trinidad when George is offered the opportunity.  George is only too happy to move over there, even for a three year contract and falls in love immediately with the idea whilst Sabine is more content to merely endure the three years and return home to England – in fact, as this is so rarely accomplished by other couples moving out to Trinidad, Sabine sees it as a bit of a challenge

This is a difficult novel to describe as it covers so many issues in relation to the Island’s history which is vividly captured during the course of the couple’s marriage.  Ultimately I just found it very sad.  To be honest I found the start of the novel difficult to get to grips with as the writing style was very choppy and frankly a little bit harsh but I suppose the author has used this to good effect.  I did find myself on the verge of putting the novel down but was keen to read the later chapters and so persevered – and I was glad I had.  It’s almost as though this book has been written by two different authors!  The first part of the book details the most recent period of the couple’s life and frankly is a little bitter – however, even at this point you can see they still love each other.  The second part takes you back to their arrival in Trinidad and the slow decline of their relationship due to a number of things.  George is basically in love with the place before he arrives but despite this doesn’t really have a true feel for the people or their real feelings, situation or history.  Sabine is basically prepared to put up with things as they are, always in the expectation that that will move back to England soon and because she is so in love with George that she couldn’t bear to be separated.  Yet, although Sabine doesn’t like the island she is much more in touch with what is truly going on and is more in touch with the feelings of the other inhabitants.  The second part of the novel is more expressive and for me this is where Trinidad came alive, the heat, the colours, the food and the people and their cultures and I always enjoy this about any novel.  It makes me want to read more about the same subject.

There really is a lot going on in this novel and a lot to take in.  It’s not a light hearted read but is definitely thought provoking and interesting.

To be honest I didn’t really like George – and perhaps you’re not supposed to – or perhaps it’s more a symptom of the era that he is from?  I don’t know but I found him very annoying.  He led Sabine on for years, he was unfaithful, vein, thoughtless and selfish.  He certainly didn’t defer to her at all with any decision – but that was because he wanted everything his own way and it’s much easier to just go and take action and tell some one once it’s a foregone conclusion.  Equally, I could say I found myself not liking Sabine for letting George have such an easy ride and get away with all of the above – but I didn’t dislike her, I was frustrated that she let George get away with so much but I felt sorry for her – and again I think maybe it’s about the era they were both from.  Sabine has a genuine feel for what was going on on the island, she was sympathetic to other people and she wanted things to change.  She was definitely naive and idealistic but I guess she would be in her circumstances – where she was only given information that people wanted her to have and stumbled on the rest by chance.

Overall I would say this book is a good, but challenging, read.

If I have any criticisms they would be that I didn’t like the style of writing for the first ‘era’ of the book – and I think this may discourage people from finishing the full story.  I’m also not over fond of reading the outcome before I know the history and, again, I think this may put people off from reading the rest of the novel.  I personally think that if the earlier chapters had come first – where more descriptions were given and the lives of the couple came alive on the page – followed by the remaining chapters (which are told in a much less ‘flowery’ style) this would have had a much more dramatic effect (given the eventual outcome).

A difficult read but worth the effort I think and definitely shows this writer’s abilities.

Rating: B

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

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