This novel tell the story of a marriage, and simultaneously of politics in Trinidad and Tobago in the latter half of the 20th century. The book begins in 2007, with George and Sabine Harwood, a couple who moved to Trinidad in the 1950s, for George’s work. While he instantly loves the island, Sabine struggles with life there, and is always looking forward to when they can return to England. However, as disenchanted as she is with Trinidad, she cannot help being fascinated by young dashing politician Eric Williams, who becomes the Prime Minister, promising great things for Trinidadians. Sabine writes to Williams on a daily basis, although she can never bring herself to send the letters. By turns, she is both adoring and loathing of Williams, resenting what she sees as his ineffective efforts to improve life for the citizens of the country.
After the first part of the story, the book goes back to the Harwoods’ arrival on the island, as a young and very happily married couple, and then shows how the struggles of Trinidad itself are mirrored in their personal struggles to keep their marriage alive.
I had had this book on my shelf for years, and eventually picked it up when I wasn’t sure what I fancied reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from the very first page. George and – particularly – Sabine were very well drawn characters, entirely believable, but not always likeable. However, I really liked Venus, the young woman who became maid and friend to Sabine; loyal and kind, but caught between the rich white people who she worked for, and those in Trinidad who wanted rid of them.
The book is informative about the political struggles of the country from the 1950s onwards, and demonstrates how Eric Williams started out as a new hope for its citizens, but was eventually unable to make the improvements to their lives which he promised and hoped to do. The Trinidad riots of 1970 are shown from Sabine’s terrified point of view, and I made a point of learning more about Williams and his PNM party as a result of reading the book.
Brilliantly written, with eloquent but never flowery language, this book is compulsively readable, perfectly balancing the story of two people with the story of a country and it’s leader.
I loved The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, and would highly recommend it.
Author’s website can be found here.)