Saturday, 17 April 2010

A week of Orange Wednesdays: The white woman on the green bicycle (Roffey)

I spotted The white woman on the green bicycle in the library on Monday. I didn't connect it with the Orange prize as it was on the new books shelf, but I knew I'd seen it mentioned a lot in the blogosphere recently, and Claire from Paperback reader confirmed that it was indeed on the longlist. It hadn't initially appealed, but the intriguing title, and mentions on blogs, and the fact that it was a new book were enough to convince me to take it out.

The vividly evoked Trinidad setting provides the background for the story of Sabine and George, a couple who moved there in the 1950s, among the last colonials to settle there. Whilst George has found it easy to acclimitise to his new life, Sabine hasn't, struggling with the heat, the lack of friends and family, and the racial segregation. We meet the couple much later on, in 2006, when George discovers a cache of letters that Sabine has written, but not sent, to Eric Williams, a politician who is trying to rescue Trinidad from colonial rule. The letters reveal Sabine's frustrations with the country, and with their marriage, and George is stunned. The book cleverly works back through the past to build up a picture of their lives up until that point, piecing together their story.

My favourite part of the book was the second part, when Sabine and George arrive in Trinidad. The culture shock is immense, and not knowing the country/period at all, witnessing Sabine's attempts to learn about life there was hugely interesting.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, and I liked, as I've often said, having the opportunity to read a book set in a different environment to those that I would normally choose to read, but this one didn't have the star quality in terms of either plot or writing that my favourites from the Orange longlist have had. Having said that, I am really glad that it made it onto the list or it is another book that might have just passed me by, and I shall certainly look out for more by Monique Roffey

I hope you've enjoyed my week of Orange longlisted posts - I've now reviewed 7 of the longlisted titles, which with the 5 I'd read already means I've read 12 of the 20 titles. The only one I'd still really like to read is The Lacuna. Anyway, I will be hugely interested to see what titles are shortlisted! I'd love to see Hearts and Minds, This is how and The still point there. I suspect that The little stranger may well make an appearance and probably Wolf Hall.


  1. I'm impressed by how many Oranges you've read. I picked up a copy of Hearts and Minds from the library today, but haven't read The Still Point yet. The fact yu think it will be short listed makes me want to read it!

    I think that The Rehearsal and possibly The Long Song will be short listed too. I'd also be very happy to see The Help on the list. It looks as though it is going to be a tough decision for those Orange judges!

  2. The different cultural setting appeals to me as well - it's too bad that writing and plot-wise it wasn't up there with the rest.

    Like Jackie, I'm impressed that you've read so many of them!

  3. Thanks for your review and thoughts on this one. I have just picked up a copy from my library but I haven't really been tempted to jump into it just yet...

  4. Jackie - both of those are good ones so I hope you enjoy them! I have not read the rehearsal yet.

    Nymeth - that was exactly my feeling!

    Karen - it does have a lovely cover though!

  5. I am so sorry I didn't realise you were hosting Persephone week with Claire. I have added your blog to my google reader,so that I won't miss a thing. I love the sound of Orange Wednesdays. Definitely something to consider in the future. I will have to look up all the Orange books past and present. I love your Virago blog too, I have been on the look out for a lot of the old Virago books around the charity shops as I just love the style of them and the stories.

  6. Hi Vivienne - thanks for popping in! I'm glad you'll be joining in and that you've found my Virago blog too. Nice to "meet" you.

  7. I'm really looking forward to reading this one! I've loved following your Orange longlist reviews because only about half of the books are currently available in the U.S.

  8. This one would make for a great discussion, I think: Trinidad is a character in its own right and I absolutely loved the complexity of George and Sabine and the situations they found/put themselves in.

  9. Nomad - how frustrating not being able to see the books that everyone is talking about.

    BIP - I think you're right that this would be a good book club read.


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