Books Magazine

Book Review: the White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

By Pamelascott




PAGES: 437


YEAR: 2009




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 her hopes and fears for the future in letters that she never brings herself to send. As the years progress, George and Sabine’s marriage endures for better or worse. When George discovers Sabine’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… 


They took him to the top of Paramin Hill. Right to the top, where there was no one around, where no one could hear him call for help. Four of them. Four to carry out such a job. They wanted to teach him a lesson. He’d no business complaining. So what if the police had stolen his mobile phone, they can damn well take what they like. And poor Talbot – well – yes. Mixed up with the local thugs, the ones causing all the problems. The police already knew Talbot. And now they wanted to teach him not to go making more trouble.


The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is a library book. I’ve wanted to read Roffey for a while now. She was a featured writer on a creative writing course I did with The Open University a while ago. I liked the extracts of her work included in the course material.

I thought The White Woman on the Green Bicycle was a great book. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Roffey is an excellent writer. The plot is well thought out and engaging. I really liked the characters. I loved the setting. Roffey ticked most of the boxes with The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and gets a huge thumbs up from me.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is set in Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean where Roffey was born. Roffey does a great job of bringing the sights, sounds, smells and people of this very different culture to life. She creates a great sense of place in The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. I was completely swallowed by the world she created. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle takes place over 50 years of Trinidad’s history and includes some shocking and turbulent events including focusing on a period when gang-related violence and murder happened every day. Roffey brought the island to wonderful life.

I thought the characterisation was great in The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. Roffey let me get to know George and Sabine very well along with their children and the colourful characters around them really well. I felt George and Sabine were real people. I shared George’s love of the island. I felt Sabine’s pain as she ached to return to the UK and a familiar, accepting world. I was fascinated by the various people they meet in their years on Trinidad.

I loved the way Roffey structures The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. The novel opens in 2006. George and Sabine have lived on the island for fifty years. They are pensioners nearing the end of their lives. The island is not a happy place. I was shocked by the way Roffey chose to conclude this section with an unexpected death and a shocking murder. Roffey then takes us back to the moment George and Sabine arrived on the island and moves forward until 1970 when George and Sabine plan to flee the island after the locals turn against white people and Sabine is stoned in the street but they miss the boat. I liked the way this gradually revealed George and Sabine’s story. The first section is written in the third person. The rest of the novel is written in the first person from Sabine’s point of view. I thought this worked really well.

Roffey is an excellent writer. I already suspected this because of the extracts from her work I read as part of my Open University course. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle confirmed this. Roffey helps me visualise everything that was going on. I fell in love with the island and her characters. Every page was a joy to read. She made me weep at times.

I loved the way Roffey explores love and relationships in The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. Sabine hates the island and wants to go back to the UK. These feelings remain right until George dies. She stays on the island because she loves him and would lose her place in the world without him. Sabine’s grief over his death was heart-breaking to read. With the love of her life dead she takes shocking action to express her true feelings about the island. George and Sabine find themselves the focus of hatred because they are white. Their black servants are loyal and stick with them. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is about love above all else in the face of terrible odds. You need a hankie at the ready when you read this wonderful novel.

There is only one thing that spoiled my enjoyment of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. Sabine hates it on the island pretty much from the start. She dreams about returning to the UK. She feels alienated on the island and resentful. I didn’t understand why she chose to remain on the island. I understood how much she loved George but for me that wasn’t a good enough reason for her to stay living in a place she hated so much. Roffey didn’t make me believe her choice enough.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is a great novel. I had a great time reading it. Only one thing niggled me. I loved everything else about Roffey’s novel. I have Roffey’s other two novels checked out of the library as well and hope they are just as good.



Up next: Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith. This is a library book. It is part of the Canongate Myths series.  

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