Sunday, 21 June 2015

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Image sourced from Lee Cannon
This is a novel of two parts. The first part is set in modern day, looking at the lives of Sabine and George as 70-something expats living in Trinidad. They have been there since Trinidad achieved it's independence and there is lots of discussion regarding what is still wrong with the country 50 years on. But more importantly, there is a lot going on with George and Sabine. And you're not sure what is happening, or what the history is. It slowly is revealed as the part, and the book goes on however.

The second part of the book is set 50 years earlier. It tells the story of George and Sabine coming to Trinidad as newly weds from London. The story is told from Sabine's perspective mainly, so you find out what it is like as a woman particularly on the island, where work wasn't an option as it would be for a man. But from Sabine, we get a look at the independence movement and the political atmosphere on the island from the observations in the street and the domestic house workers.

If I'm honest, the story was okay. I didn't like Sabine, so that made it hard. But the themes explored in the story, race, class, expat workers, political independence and agency was all well handled. I learnt a lot about Trinidad and it's history. I had a demonstration from my Trinidadian friend what steupsing was, which is important.

But the saviour was the writing, which was beautiful, descriptive and immersive. The descriptions of the island and the environment were invocative. I felt like I was on the island, looking at the flowers or iguanas, and feeling the heat. It lost the Prize-Formerly-known-as-Orange to The Lacuna, which I also enjoyed a lot more, but I can see why it was a contender.

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