Short listed for the Orange Prize 2010
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is set on the island of Trinidad. George Harwood is given a three-year contract to work on the island and so moves from England, with his wife Sabine, to take up the post. George quickly falls in love with his new surroundings, but Sabine is home sick and longs to return to England. This causes friction within their marriage, but Sabine comforts herself with a fixation on Trinidad’s new leader, Eric Williams. She explains all her problems in detailed letters to him, but can never bring herself to post them. One day George discovers these letters and realises how many of his wife’s problems had been kept hidden from him. He decides that he needs to prove how much he loves her, but things go very wrong…
There was some fantastic imagery in the book. This section is taken from the very beginning, but it sets the scene perfectly:
Every afternoon, around four, the iguana fell out of the coconut tree. Bdup! While sunbathing, it had fallen asleep, relaxing its grip, dropping from a considerable height. It always landed like a cat, on all fours, ready to fight. The dogs always went berserk, gnashing and chasing after the creature as it fled, scuttling across the grass, a streak of lime green disappearing off into the undergrowth.
There was quite a lot of dialect and this was occasionally difficult to follow, but I didn’t mind as it added to the atmosphere.
My main problem was that the book had no forward momentum and so I often found myself with no desire to read on. With a book of this length (my copy has 437 pages) this isn’t an ideal situation. If I put the effort into reading it then I was often rewarded, but there were times when I considered giving up as reading was a chore.
With hindsight it was a fantastic story, but the pace was too slow for me. I would have preferred it to have been much shorter, but I can see why it was short listed for the Orange prize.
Recommended to those who enjoy slow, character driven novels.
Not many people have read this one, but opinions seem mixed:
I was bowled over by this book. Other Stories
…didn’t have the star quality in terms of either plot or writing that my favourites from the Orange longlist have had. The B Files
I think this one will be nestling into my list of favourite reads for 2010. Buried in Print