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The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

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3.45  ·  Rating details ·  2,813 ratings  ·  443 reviews
A beautifully written, unforgettable novel of a troubled marriage, set against the lush landscape and political turmoil of Trinidad

Monique Roffey's Orange Prize-shortlisted novel is a gripping portrait of postcolonialism that stands among great works by Caribbean writers like Jamaica Kincaid and Andrea Levy.

When George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England, G
...more
Paperback, 439 pages
Published 2009 by Viking (Penguin)
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Average rating 3.45  · 
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 ·  2,813 ratings  ·  443 reviews


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Adanma Raymond
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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BookOfCinz
In the 1950s British couple George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad and Tobago for George to start his new role. The couple's goal was to be there for 2 year- 3 years max but by 2006 we realize they are there for life. A lot happens over the next 5 decades- George assimilates to Trinidad, buys land, starts laying down roots- he even goes as far as getting TT citizenship. Sabine on the other hand still hopes for the day when they will eventually pack up and move back to England. Till then sh ...more
Misha Mathew
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
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
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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
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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
Viv JM
3.5 stars

A troubled marriage in a troubled country. This is certainly a very evocative book but I think it would have appealed more if I didn't find both George and Sabine quite so unlikable.
Karin
This is a historical novel except for the first 189 pages, which is contemporary and near the end of the lives of George and Sabine Harwood, who moved from England to Trinidad in 1956, just at the end of British rule for the country. It f0llows the lives of Sabine and her husband along with the political changes in the country, the good, the bad and the ugly. I did not like this book, and while I might have liked Sabine had it started at the beginning, I really didn't given that it started at th ...more
Adele Ward
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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Roy
Dec 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: women-authored
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
Elaine
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
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
Carmen
‘What are you thinking?’ he asked.
‘My green bicycle. Remember it?’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Arriving from the hold. People laughed when they saw it.’
‘Yes.’
‘I travelled everywhere on that bike – at first. Didn’t I?’
‘I remember it well.’
Often, Sabine would arrive at the dock to meet him after work. Her shorts revealed long, slim, honey-coloured legs. A halter-neck top, Dior sunglasses. Blonde curls. Every man behind her stopped dead in their tracks to watch her pass.
‘Riding round the savannah, I liked tha
...more
Ellen
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jane
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: borrowed
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
Beverly
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Darryl
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Toria
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Well this wasn't awfully written, it could have been a very compelling story. I just didn't enjoy my time with it, can't really put my finger on why.
Sharon
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Beth Bonini
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Brittany Jacobs
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
The pacing and chronology of this book did not sit well with me. The story itself was solid, and the imagery beautiful, but the order in which parts of the plot were revealed did not make much sense to me. Additionally, I had a difficult time connecting with any of the characters.
No doubt the myriad of topics covered in this book would make for a good book club discussion, and it did have me thinking myself.
JenniferD
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Petra, Heather, Nathaniel
Shelves: 2011-books
I loved this book! It was a novel that not only tells the reader a story but invokes the senses. More to come on this one.
Ape
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew precious little about Trinidad's modern history before I started this book, and it's certainly been an education in that respect, and a bit of an upheaval-epic. It's also been an interesting story. But it's left me feeling sombre and a bit drained.

The book is split into four sections, each of different years: 2006, 1956, 1963, 1970. It was the last three sections that I enjoyed the most and honestly I found the 2006 section a bit of a drag. It's almost the first half of the book, and at t
...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
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 lonelines
...more
Colin Anton
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing


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
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Monique Roffey is an award winning writer. Her novels have been shortlisted for The Orange Prize, COSTA Fiction Award, Encore and Orion Awards. In 2013, Archipelago won the OCM BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Literature. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at MMU and a tutor at the National Writers Centre.

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Ashley Poston made her name with Once Upon a Con, a contemporary series set in the world of fandom, and her two-part space opera, Heart of...
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“George liked it so, that this island was uncompromising and hard for tourists to negotiate. Not all welcome smiles and black men in Hawaiian shirts, playing pan by the poolside. No flat, crystal beaches, no boutique hotels. Trinidad was oil-rich, didn't need tourism. Trinidadians openly sniggered at the sunburnt American women who wandered down the pavement in shorts and bikini top. Trinidad was itself; take it or leave it.” 1 likes
“I knew I was missing out, missing this: the thrum of population, out here, in the street. I sailed by, a white ghost in their midst.” 0 likes
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