x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Notes from a small island

Set against the backdrop of Trinidad's transition from colonial rule to self-government, the tragicomic tale of George and Sabine Harwood, who arrive on the island as newlyweds in 1956, is both love story and lament.

Set against the backdrop of Trinidad's transition from colonial rule to self-government, the tragicomic tale of George and Sabine Harwood, who arrive on the island as newlyweds in 1956, is both love story and lament. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle Monique Roffey Simon & Schuster/ Pocket Books Dh52 The story exudes the author's love of the island, expressed through George, who is smitten by its beauty and develops an almost obsessive attachment to it. Sabine, on the other hand, feels isolated but, when she stumbles on a political rally and hears a speech by Eric Williams, the new national party leader, her social conscience is awakened - and so is her anger. For solace she pours her heart into letters to Williams that she later decides against sending. As the years pass and Sabine unravels, so do the Trinidadian people's hopes for a new social order.

A skilled story-teller, Roffey's passages about the setting are alive with the colour, richness, fecundity and enervating humidity of Trinidad; her minor characters are keenly observed and some are cringe-makingly hilarious - not mere caricatures but people that anyone who has been an expat will recognise instantly.