The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Book - 2011
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Sabine struggles to adapt to life in postcolonial Trinidad after her husband George takes a job assignment there, especially as racial and political tensions rise and the couple's secrets and lies cause them to drift apart.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Penguin Books, 2011.
ISBN: 9780143119517
0143119516
Branch Call Number: FIC/ROFFEY
Characteristics: 439 p. ; 20 cm.

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g
gwilsonsd
Aug 06, 2013

I loved it! Learned a lot about Trinidad and its political history. Its social history is also interesting from the perspective of Sabine who is both an outsider and an insider. Sabine's relationship with George was very honest - I think we can all see bits of ourselves in that mix. She is a very strong, complex character. I've lived on tropical islands so I connected with the description of Trinidad as a seductive woman... an island can really lull you into submission and also repel you at the same time.

I can see where not everyone would be as charmed with it as I was, but nevertheless, it was perfect for me. I'm sad the story is over.

u
uncommonreader
Aug 01, 2012

A white couple move to Trinidad in the 1950s. He loves the land; she wants to leave. Changes in the country from a colony to thwarted black power. Good.

k
KSerá
Jun 17, 2012

I might not have liked this as much if it weren't for the great reader. I did like the fact that the woman becomes more likeable as she gets older.

melwyk Feb 13, 2012

The basic story is this: Sabine is married to George. He gets a job in Trinidad, where they move from England during the height of colonial advantages. She doesn't like it much. But they stay on, through years of unrest and the uprising of a Trinidadian government, despite Sabine's protestations that she just wants to go home. They never return to England, in fact. Other elements: Sabine & George have a passionate though uneven marriage. They have years that they were madly in love and years when they despised each other. George has a wandering eye. Sabine develops a strange relationship with Trinidadian prime minister Eric Williams, writing him piles of unsent letters. They have a long term Trinidadian maid/nanny who is part of the family.

Out of this stew of ingredients, Roffey concocts a tasty story. A little spicy, with sex and the changing mores of England vs. Trinidad and one generation to the next compared. A little bitter, with Sabine's unhappiness flavouring the entire story. A little salty, with strong language and violence breaking through fairly often. A little fragrant, with some moments of great beauty revealed. But overall, I found it didn't fill me up.

While I enjoyed the atmosphere of the book and learned a lot from it, I also wondered if I was getting a clear picture of Trinidad from a narrator who went there not by choice and repeatedly states how much she hates it. Nonetheless, it was an unusual read with an unfamiliar setting, and it was absorbing.

m
macierules
Jun 23, 2011

Terrific atmospheric descriptions of Trinidad - you can literally feel the humidity and see the colours...and the history lessons are interesting as well. An author has to be gutsy to write a novel where the main characters are so unlikeable. After a while the whining just got to me..shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize.

Cdnbookworm Jun 16, 2011

This is a wonderful book that follows the lives of a British man, George, and his wife, Sabine. They came to Trinidad in 1956, where he would work, as many did, in a shipping company as a clerk, on a three-year contract.
The book begins in 2006, when Sabine has resigned herself to living in Trinidad for the rest of her life. Her daughter, Pascale, has married locally, and her son Sebastian works in England. George does freelance writing for the local paper. When George discovers one of her long kept secrets, he is driven to take new risks in his life, in an effort to revive their relationship. This section occupies the major part of the book. We see events from both George and Sabine's viewpoint.
In the next section, the book moves back to 1956 when the couple arrived in Trinidad. From her on, we see things from Sabine's view only. She has brought with her a green bicycle and she bicycles all over Port of Spain and the surrounding area on it. She is a legend, but she doesn't realize it right away. Also in 1956, the young Eric Williams is beginning to speak out for home rule. Sabine's wanderings take her to one of his speeches and she is fascinated. We see how she fought to be her own person and fought against the seduction of the island that had already captured George.
The book follows through other major events in 1963, culminating in the riots of 1970 when the family almost left. Throughout, Sabine rages against the island and studies it, and finds that she has become part of it, whether she likes it or not. This is a story of modern-day colonialism and the struggle of a developing country to find its own voice. Sabine belongs here and yet she will never belong. This is both her home and her prison. And, as the white woman on the green bicycle, she makes one final stand for what she believes is right.
A fascinating book that tells a unique story.

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