Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 28th 2014 Contents A10
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, July 28, 2014
My name is Monique Roffey and
my novel House of Ashes, inspired by
the July 27 1990 attempted coup in
Trinidad, has just been published.
I was born in Port of Spain. My
parents arrived from England in Jan-
uary 1956, the month Eric Williams
launched the PNM. They came for
four years and stayed for 60. In 1970,
my family left, after Black Power. But
they came back seven years later for
good. Dad s ashes are scattered in the
north coast sea.
I ve lived in London for most of
my adult life. These days, I spend six
months in Trinidad, six in London.
There are two older brothers and
me. My parents had a third son who
died soon after birth, before he was
baptised. My father went from church
to church, the tiny coffin on the back
seat of the car. No Catholic church
would bury him. My mother left the
church and lost her faith after that.
In my thirties, I lived with a won-
derful man who had two children.
We ran a writing centre together for
the Arvon Foundation. It was the
nearest I got to a conventional mar-
riage. I see myself as a hetaera
woman. I make a good companion and
lover, but not a mother or wife.
I was all set to go to Bishop s
Anstey when my parents decided on
a Surrey boarding school run by Irish
nuns. If you have survived a British
boarding school, you can survive
prison. The revolting over-boiled food.
Very little personal privacy, cast-iron
bathtubs, midnight feasts. It gave me
a lifelong dislike and disrespect for
authority. But I m still friends with a
few of my fellow inmates.
In my thirties, I went back to uni-
versity and did my creative writing
MA and PhD at Lancaster University.
All through my UK education---from
age 13 to my forties---I came home to
I ve been to Catholic church so
many times I could say the whole
Mass off by heart. But in the last few
years I ve become Buddhist-leaning .
This current life as Monique Roffey is
just one of my lives.
There are always two towers of
books by my bedside. The books I
want to read and the books I have to
read for research.
The best book I ever read was
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I weep
just thinking of it.
I think drag queens are evolved
The White Woman on a Green
Bicycle was rejected 27 times in the
UK. In 2010, I was so broke, I couldn t
pay my Orange phone bill and they d
cut me off! No one had heard of me,
a white woman from Trinidad! And
then the Orange Prize shortlisting
changed everything. At the cer-
emony, I sat next to Hilary Man-
tel. I read to a thousand people.
I laughed and smiled all night. It
is my Cinderella book. I went to
the ball with it. I ve been able to
pay my bills since, including my
My mother has never com-
plained about the way I por-
trayed her and my father in
WWGB. George Harwood is a
hopelessly flawed, philandering
colonial who loves Trinidad for
all the wrong reasons---and yet
many people like him. That has
I feel nervous and good, too,
about House of Ashes. Big risk
taken to write it. The Commission
of Enquiry witness testimonies
were published online and I read
most. If you really want to know
what happened in 1990, take
some time and read the testi-
monies. They are a gift to
House of Ashes is written with
a female hand holding the pen.
A male writer would have made
Nothing is ever good or glam-
orous about writing. It is lonely,
difficult, piecemeal work. Being
deep in the creative process hurts,
and it is lonely, too. But it is really
I have slapped a few men. It s
not very Buddhist but it works
All the sexy people live in
Trinidadians possess a big
sense of themselves. But not like
Americans who come across as
Has anyone else noticed the
insidious, colonisation of the
region, without guns or invading
fleets, by the USA? They did it
on the Internet. Trinidad is
addicted to FB/Twitter and low-
brow American cable TV. Trinidad
has been Googled.
A Trini is not one thing. The
whole world meets in one island.
But even Carnival divides us.
Trinidad is my birthplace, my
home, where my family resides.
Where three generations have now
• Read a longer version of this
feature at www.BCRaw.com
White woman writer
on a Red House coup
The White Woman on a Green Bicycle was rejected 27 times in the UK.
In 2010, I was so broke, I couldn't pay my Orange phone bill and they'd
cut me off! No one had heard of me, a white woman from Trinidad! And
then the Orange Prize shortlisting changed everything. At the
ceremony, I sat next to Hilary Mantel. I read to a thousand people. I
laughed and smiled all night. It is my Cinderella book. I went to the ball
with it. I've been able to pay my bills since, including my Orange bill.
Abigail Hadeed's portrait captures the woman smouldering behind her
House of Ashes.
As Told to BC Pires
TRINI TO D BONE
Links Archive July 27th 2014 July 29th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page