The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
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The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  1,728 ratings  ·  319 reviews
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 he...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published July 8th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2009)
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Adanma Raymond
It frightens me that this novel could be nominated for an internationally recognized literary award. I have given it two stars only for its offering of a rare snapshot of Trinidadian daily life before 1990. This snapshot however is on a purely superficial level, with fantastic imagery but nearly juvenile insight. Not only does it present a completely false and warped idea of race relations on the island, but it does so in a very self-indulgent manner, as if to justify racism and colonial attitud...more
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!

I finished this book last night, before I went to bed, but it is still night or early, early morning. 3:30 AM to be precise! I cannot sleep. I keep thinking abut this book and how I shhould explain why I adore it. It swallowed me, sucked on me, swished me around, pounded me and then spit me out. Or have you ever been tumbled and beaten by a crashing wave? When you escape, thrown up on shore, dizzy, without footing, tousled, pummelled; that is another way of describing how you feel...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
In the fabric of every marriage there are rents and tears. As the years accumulate, there will be quite a few of them. Sometimes the patches are clumsy and remain weak; sometimes there is no patch, just secrets kept hidden from one’s mate. Roffey begins her novel at the 50-year mark of the marriage of George and Sabine Harwood, then takes us back to tell us how they got there.

The story parallels in time the transition in Trinidad from British rule to self-governance. I knew nothing about this co...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a beautiful book. If you only read one book set in the Caribbean, this should be it. The writing transports me to the island of Trinidad, with the heat and the vegetation and the turmoil of centuries of different groups of people moving through. I loved how it was written, with the majority of the story happening in the present, and then other sections going back to the beginning and then moving forward to meet up to where it started.

The story is about George and Sabine Harwood, who come...more
Trish
The excitement of discovering this book was one I have not felt for years. It is all the things great literature should be: it shows as well as teaches; it is recognizable but fresh; it is on some level profound; it is memorable. The book is written in dialect, and it was a revelation to me to see phrases I’d only ever heard actually written down. It added much to the general impression of the first section of the book as a stage play. And a wonderful, rich, funny, tragic stage play it would be....more
Misha
My reaction to The White Woman on the Green Bicycle can only be described as a mixed bag. There are parts I really liked and parts I didn't.

Monique Roffey's vivid depiction of Trinidad along with the lush imagery, is my favorite part about the book. Before this, I wasn't curious or even knowledgeable about Trinidad. The first thing I did after finishing this book was google Trinidad and read up as much as I could find on the internet. History and politics of the place have been entwined into the...more
Dexter
I read White Woman on the Green Bicycle and completely enjoyed it. I am from Trinidad and Tobago and thought the author did a masterful job capturing the beauty of our language, the richness of our culture, the complexity and disappointment of our politics. I am happy for modern fictional literature on Trinidad. Far too long it has been monopolized by V.S. Naipaul and his ilk freezing the land, people, and culture in a post-colonial time warp. I appreciate the raw honesty of Monique Roffey's wri...more
Adele Ward
Monique Roffey: A White Woman, A Green Bicycle, and the Orange Prize

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. I...more
Beverly
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey is a multi-layered story of love and betrayal between a man and a woman, a man and a country, and a country and a politician. January, 1956 is a pivotal year for newlyweds, Sabine and George Hayward, and the island of Trinidad. Sabine and George have just arrived in Trinidad for a three-year job stint, as many other white men, hoping to enjoy a higher standard of living and position that was not attainable in England. Instantly, George fall...more
Jane
I didn’t come across The White Woman on the Green Bicycle until it appeared on the longlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

I wasn’t sure that it would be my sort of book, but I heard so much praise that I really had to order a copy.

Since then it appeared on the shortlist, and now that I have read it I have to say that I would be thrilled to see it win. A wonderful book!

It tells the story of one woman, her life and marriage, and wraps around it the story of Trinidad in the second half of the tw...more
LitAddictedBrit
I originally bought this on a binge induced by the release of the Orange Prize for Fiction (UK) shortlist 2010 as the books were *ahem* on offer but I was really taken by the idea of a story exploring the background of Trinidad - a country I would admit I know little about.

What I will give this book credit for is it's incredible descriptions of either a wildly compelling Trinidad or a hot and oppressive Trinidad. The scenery was beautiful and by far my favourite aspect of the book. The local cha...more
Elaine
Oh dear, seccond book in a row that I rapidly flipped pages hoping to get to the end. Where to start? The main character is fundamentally unlikeable -- her political (and it seems?) sexual obssession with Trinidad's first prime minister is almost inpenetrably contradictory -- she wants a better life for Trinidad's black population who she knows only as servants and violent "others" or worse b/c she hates the island and hates not wanting to be wanted by it? (Plus as an aside all the nostalgia for...more
Darryl
This novel begins in contemporary Trinidad, and its main character is Sabine Harwood, a French woman who has been married to her handsome but mediocre English husband George for 50 years. At the beginning of their marriage she agreed to move to Trinidad with him for a three year period, so long as they could move back to the UK after his contract ended. George instantly fell in love with the island, as he was able to make a place for himself as a white man with little competition in a segregated...more
Roy
Monique Roffey is a fine writer and her vivid descriptions of Trinidad make readers feel its tropical heat and lush ripeness. Trinidad is as much a character as the setting. In "The White Woman on the Green Bicycle" readers are transported to this island (not too far from my birth place of St. Thomas) and observe its shifting political climate over the course of turbulent decades. The struggle for independence from the authority of Europeans is backdrop to the story of a rocky marriage that is u...more
Ellen
Monique Roffey's The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is a book that doesn't seem to know what to do with itself; it has ideas, but it declares this so openly that no part of the novel is allowed to naturally take root in the reader's mind. Roffey's novel, about a couple from England, Sabine and George, living in Trinidad, opens with the pair in their seventies, entrenched in what seems a decades-long loathing of one another, an obsession with their physical decline, and an endless rehashing of...more
Beth Bonini
Most memorable book from my summer reading.

A young expat wife arrives in Trinidad in the early 1960s, just as the British are withdrawing. She finds that she is sympathetic to the political/social aims of Eric Williams and the newly formed national party (ie,non-white Trinis) . . . just as her English husband is falling in love with the other rich assets of island life (rum, beautiful women, cheap property).

The novel is about a long marriage -- but also, and in a related way, about the hopes and...more
Natalie
More like a 3.75 on the nat-o-meter

Characters don't have to walk off the page for me to keep turning the pages but this is a novel that would be better as a screenplay or even a script and set design - somehow it is missing that breath of life that actors can bring to a story - if well cast, well staged, and strongly acted, the circumstances of this tale and the observers' perspective on the characters' experiences would light this world of contradictions on fire.
Sharon
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is a back-to-front book. The first part is chronologically the last, and even before the story really begins we know the tragic end; but foreknowledge is exactly the prod that keeps the reader reading. How, why, did it all go so terribly wrong?
When George and Sabine Harwood, flushed with the glow of a new marriage, arrive in Port of Spain, Trinidad in the mid-1950’s, an Other Woman steps into their life and casts a spell on George. Sabine is powerless against...more
Tami
This novel is in two parts. It could've ended after the first part and would have been a complete - and fascinating! - story of an expat British couple, George and Sabine, who are individually having very different experiences in Trinidad. If the novel had ended there, after the first part, I probably would've rated it around a 4, maybe a 5. It's a very lush book, with a wonderfully vivid glimpse into Trinidadian scenery and life.

Since I've instead given this novel a 2, obviously the story start...more
Karina
I can honestly say that I began this book very tentatively. As a Trinidadian living overseas, I am keenly familiar with the impact of negative stereotyping and ignorance on how peoples and nations are perceived. I honestly did not wish to read a novel that in any way bought into any false representation of my country and its beautiful, progressive, intelligent, fun loving, hard working people! I was also a bit weary of mixing fact with fiction in the way that was done here. It is so easy to simp...more
Zen Nana
Let me start by saying that I rarely like books about colonialists living in luxury among poor natives, whining about their sad lives the whole time. I hated Out of Africa. But The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is something else. While it dragged a bit at times, I stuck with it and was rewarded by being completely immersed in a world of love amid culture clash, political unrest and the intimate story of a woman and her marriage. All the while believing that her time in Trinidad will be limite...more
Kkraemer
"Every afternoon, around four, the iguana fell out of the coconut tree."

Interesting first line, eh? and it introduces almost everything about this book: the exotic setting (both geographical and physical), the predictability, the patterns...

On the surface, this is the story of Sabine and George, who fall in love, marry, move to Trinidad in 1956, and stay for at least 50 years. Sabine hates Trinidad. George loves it...and that is the crux of the story. Add to that, however, the fact that Trinida...more
Kathleen
The violence in the opening pages, reflective of all the cumulative layers of what had gone wrong or stayed wrong in Trinidad, almost kept me from continuing. By page 7, I was riveted, sweating in the relentless heat described and uneasy about the blimp hanging over the Port of Spain.

I cared deeply about the characters in this book. In 1956, a young married couple arrives in Trinidad for a three year contract in an English company not at all prepared for the life that awaits them. The loneliness...more
Colin Anton


Monique Roffey is a very talented writer. However, if you were looking for truly likable characters and a love story within this book's pages, whoops -- you missed the boat (spoiler pun intended).

It's a book meant to ambivalently illuminate recent Trinidadian life, through the eyes of two married distinctly different white would-be colonialists. I mean, the book STARTS in 1956 -- dead giveaway right there. Most to all of the poignant moments in the book line up with historical Trinidadian factoi...more
Joan Cobb
Sabine and George Harwood come to Trinidad in 1956 from England. This novel takes the reader through the evolution of Trinidad from British colony to modern (if not badly functioning) democracy. Trinidad is multi-racial and tropical, which George immediately loves. Sabine never adjusts and I am not sure why, which is what this novel is mainly about. Guilt about being white? Anger at the ongoing poverty/corruption/crime? Somehow she is able to mentally fight this move for 50 years and continues t...more
Iuliana
Book club choice for this month - I am never sure about books with reversed timelines and I cannot see why the author chose to tell the story in this manner. It did not anything positive to the book .

I enjoyed the first half of the book, the history of Trinidad is quite interesting and it is full of beautiful descriptive passages. But the second half left me perplexed, there was enough information in the first half about the characters' early lives and i would have prefered to keep reading about...more
Dree
The story of Trinidad's independence and what it meant for the people of Trinidad, as told from the perspective of Sabine, a Frenchwoman married to an Englishman. Sabine and George are among the last colonials who come on what is supposed to be a 3-year contract.

Roffey starts at the end of the story--40 years after Sabine comes to Trinidad. She has never liked the place--the heat, the humidity, her feeling of being an outsider because of her color and colonial status. George, on the other hand,...more
Kirsten
I loved this book! What a great discovery. I immediately wanted to discuss it with someone. Would be a good book group read. When I finished the book, I felt like the characters were living on; they were real and multi-dimensional. Well-written. It was about an English couple who went to Trinidad for the husband's job. Their marriage was falling apart and wife hated it in Trinidad; he loved it. She rides a green bicycle around the island and becomes known for that. The book is about their marria...more
Filipa De paiva raposo
Loved this book - so evocative and all the smells and heat of the Caribbean on every page - the history of Trinidade, the tragedies and wonders of a beautiful place
Laura Stone Johnson
I suppose this book may have had a particularly strong effect on me due to my past ex-patriot-from-a-tropical-country-in-turmoil status. I could very easily relate to the profound desire to leave while at the same time acknowledging the strong connections made while in country. I too felt lost in the grocery store and alienated in the market. I definitely felt that I was melting and poured sweat while standing still. The writing was evocative and having never read a book that took place in Trini...more
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Around the World ...: The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (Trinidad) 4 80 Mar 22, 2013 10:39AM  
New word - steupse 3 60 Jun 22, 2011 01:57AM  
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Monique Roffey was educated in the UK. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Sun Dog, was published in 2002. Since then she has worked as a Centre Director for the Arvon Foundation and has held the post of Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Sussex and Chichester universities. In 2010, her second novel, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
More about Monique Roffey...
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