White Woman on a Green Bicycle
by Monique Roffey
The love story of George and Sabine Harwood begins as most love stories do: passionate and built on dreams. Their story ends as some marriages do: brittle, shattered, and, yet, somehow still connected. The whimsical cover threw me as I started the novel, which begins in the present with the 70-something couple leading lives separated by mistrust and alcohol. The caustic tone wasn’t what I’d expected. But a few chapters in, Roffey rolls back the years and we see George and Sabine arrive in Trinidad, fresh from England. They are on an adventure, young, and in love. But the heat oppresses one and invigorates the other, and the racial animosity thrills one and deadens the other. Their unraveling is bittersweet, poignant–and only made more so when the author returns to the present at the novel’s end.
by Jane Smiley
Margaret is a spinster, plain and simple. At age 27 her prospects are dim: she was a bit too plain, a bit too frank, and a bit too intelligent to settle. But when Andrew Early, a celebrated, yet eccentric scientist, arrives in town, Margaret’s wily mother Lavinia encourages their friendship. Confused at times by Andrew’s bizarre behavior, Margaret sets off with him for life in San Fransisco shortly after World War I. Margaret learns to play the dutiful wife, typing her husband’s book drafts, listening to his rants, enduring long nights alone while he researched. Initially bedazzled by her husband’s mind, Margaret eventually comes to recognize Andrew’s narrow-mindedness and paranoia. While she gains confidence and a wider circle of support, he is drawn into himself, seeing conspiracy at every turn.The novel could share a title with one of Doris Lessing’s collections: We Are the Prisons We Live Inside.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (nonfiction)
Book club selection for August–I read it in a day. Author Amy Chua wanted to raise her daughters as a Chinese mother would, not a Western one. Chinese child-rearing, Chua feels, engenders successful children who excel in school and music. Western parenting … lets just say we don’t come out so well, and most of the time, justifiably so. Chua came under incredible criticism when the book was published–mostly from those merely reacting to a sound bite. The book ends up being more a treatise on what not to do as we watch Chua and one of her daughters battle to what might have been the end of their relationship. Well worth reading and plenty of points to discuss.