Review: ‘The White Woman on the Green Bicycle’ by Monique Roffey

What the blurb said:
“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…When George discovers Sabin’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…”

What I would say:
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 characters’ speech is written in a local dialect too which is very atmospheric.

It does, however, suffer from being somewhat too long for its own characters. George staunchly plays the ignorant husband while Sabine plays downtrodden wife and…well, that’s it. The story as told in 2006 is not nearly as colourful as the prologue would suggest and the characterisation is poor, aside from that of Trinidad itself. Now, here it depends on why you read but I like to be able to identify with and, hell, like at least one of the protagonists. It does become much more readable once it switches to the first person narrative in 1956 and you begin to understand how the characters started out but even that wore on after a while.

Stick with it if you want to know more about the politics and history of Trinidad – that really is interesting! Just don’t hold out for a gripping storyline or lovable characters…