Friday, June 3, 2011

#BookReview: The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - Monique Roffey

A job transfer to the island of Trinidad offers a chance for George Harwood to feel important and for his wife, Sabine, to start a new adventure.  What was intended to be a  three year stay turns into a life long residency and while George thrives in the environment, Sabine becomes resentful of the island and what it represents.  Is it fair for one spouse to suffer so the other can thrive? This becomes the bone of contention with the Harwoods.

As an average white man in the UK, George was stuck in a job that was going nowhere.  On the island, he and others like him stand out.  Instead of a middle manager, they're executives.  Their companies cater to them, providing them with transportation, homes, servants, etc., all things they wouldn't have had or been able to afford in England.  Even after his job ends, George finds a position with the local paper and becomes somewhat of a celebrity himself.  So it's easy to see why George would want to stay on the island.

Sabine is the one that truly gets out in society and comes to realize that the Trinidadians have no great love for the white people that have invaded their island.  Through her interactions with the house servants and employees at the country club, the reader learns about the history of Trinidad and its leaders.  Roffey blends the history of Trinidad into the story so masterfully that you don't realize you've been given a history lesson until you're well into the book.  The reasons for the distrust and dislike of the British people becomes more apparent as the story continues and I found myself asking just how selfish could one person be to risk the lives of their family to stay in a place where they're obviously not wanted.

It's interesting to note that, much like their parents, Sabine and George's children seem to take divergent paths, with one seeming much like George and the other like Sabine.  As a reader, the reasons why should be apparent, but I was left wondering if it was because of their environment or was it a conscious decision on the part of both.  Do their children become who they are because of their parents or in spite of them?

Would you be willing to stay somewhere because your spouse wanted to be there?  Would you be willing to stay somewhere your spouse didn't want to be?

What did you like about this book?
I appreciated the historical lesson.  I wasn't really familiar with the history of Trinidad, so I loved that it played so much of a part in this story, almost like a character itself.

What didn't you like about this book?
At 448 pages, it's was pretty lengthy and, at times, I found myself wishing it was over already.  I was also unsure of what to make of the interactions between Sabine and the mountain. They seemed somewhat out of place.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Trim the fat.

Published April 2011

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