The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Written by Monique Roffey
Review by Viviane Crystal

George and Sabine Harwood came from England to Trinidad in 1956. Young, passionately in love, they embraced the land, the people, and the political world rapidly evolving into its independence.

This novel is the story of Trinidad’s historical evolution into self-rule and degeneration. George and Sabine’s relationship also gradually deteriorates in a parallel direction. George gradually falls in love with the land to the point where he becomes a financially secure Trinidad citizen. Sabine hates everything about the country and fears being hated by the natives, the latter depicted in tangibly volatile scenes where she is insulted and threatened.

Meanwhile, George sleeps around and buries his inability to keep Sabine’s love in booze; his only hope is writing about famous Trinidad leaders in politics and sports. When a young man is brutally beaten up by the police for protesting the theft of a mobile phone, George attempts to bring a lawsuit against the thugs guilty of this attack, an effort planned only to try to win back Sabine’s respect. But Sabine has only one passion left, Eric Williams, the first leader with noble ideals who wins Trinidad’s first election and who becomes a model of the “Massah” he despises and fears. Over the course of fifty years, she pens hundreds of letters to Williams in which she honors his leadership and ideas; her notes, like her relationship to George, deteriorate into diatribes on the injustices Williams ignores or orders.

Monique Roffey’s multilayered plot is a passionate, microcosmic look at formerly colonial territories achieving freedom but unable to deal with the responsibilities and problems they inherit. Roffey’s brilliant novel suggests that Paradise is created, not left to nature’s whimsical acts or human nature’s failure to learn from colonial history.