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Monique Roffey (born 1965) is an award-winning Trinidadian-born British writer and memoirist.
Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1965, to a British father and mother of mixed Mediterranean origins, Roffey was educated at St Andrew's School in Maraval, Trinidad, and then in the UK at St Maur's Convent, and St George's College, Weybridge. She graduated with a BA in English and Film Studies from the University of East Anglia in 1987, and later completed an MA and PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Between 2002 and 2006 she was a Centre Director for the Arvon Foundation and later held three posts for the Royal Literary Fund (2006–12).
Roffey is an experienced creative writing tutor and has taught for numerous creative writing providers and organisations, including First Story, The Arvon Foundation and English PEN. She is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing on the Novel MFA at Manchester Metropolitan University. Since 2013, she has been a literary activist and advocate for emerging writers in Trinidad, teaching for COSTAATT, Bocas Lit Fest and privately in Port of Spain, where she set up the St James Writers’ Room in 2014 and numerous other writing workshops since. She has also co-led writing retreats in Trinidad in collaboration with other Caribbean writers such as Professor Loretta Collins-Klobah and Professor Kei Miller and in partnership with Mount Plaisir Estate in Grande Riviere, Trinidad. Roffey has dual nationality and divides her time between London and Port of Spain. She is also a mitra of the Triratna Buddhist order.
Roffey has written five novels and a memoir. Sun Dog (2002), set in west London, is a magical realist tale of psychological estrangement, identity loss and subsequent individuation. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (2009; shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize and the 2011 Encore Award), is the story of European ex-colonials living in Trinidad during the island's early Independence years and their subsequent process of creolisation. It was hailed by Commonwealth Prize-winner Olive Senior, who said:
- “…it breaks entirely new ground. It is a major contribution to the New Wave of Caribbean writing: energetic, uncompromising, bold in the choice of narrative devices and a great read.”
It has been published to critical acclaim in the UK, United States and Europe.
Roffey's 2011 memoir, With the Kisses of His Mouth, is a personal account of a mid-life quest for sexual liberation and self-identification other than the aspirant hetero-normative model. It has been characterised as "a subversive work that transcends the author's personal story: it stands alone in the chasm that has opened between feminist literature and the belles du jour brigade."
Her novel Archipelago, published in July 2012, set in the aftermath of a flood, examines climate change from the perspective of a man from the southern Caribbean. Andrew Miller (Costa Award winner, 2012) said: "Archipelago is beautifully done. There's a warmth to it, an exuberance and a wisdom, that makes the experience of reading it feel not just pleasurable but somehow instructive. It's funny, sometimes bitingly poignant. And how well Roffey writes a male central character. A brilliant piece of storytelling." Archipelago won the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, being commended for its "exploration of the greater Caribbean space in which is embedded a real-life story of trauma and loss and ultimately redemption that is both contemporary and compelling". The novel was judged the winner of the fiction category of the prize, and at the Bocas Lit Fest was announced on 27 April 2013 as the best overall book from all categories.
Roffey's 2014 novel, House of Ashes, is a fictionalised account of the events surrounding the 1990 attempted coup in Trinidad. Ronald Adamolekun, for Wasafiri magazine, said: House of Ashes will be remembered as the most authoritative fictionalised account of the 1990 Trinidad and Tobago revolution, arguably the darkest moment of the island’s history."
The Telegraph called it "vigorous, grimly absorbing tale", while The Observer′s reviewer concluded: "Roffey's writing is raw and visceral and she thrusts her readers headlong into the very middle of the action, her pen as powerful as the butts of the guns shoved in her hostages' backs."
A fifth novel, The Tryst, published in July 2017, was sold twice, first to Simon and Schuster UK, and then to independent press Dodo Ink. Having worked on it, on and off, for fourteen years, Roffey revisits the tale of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, and examines the common but taboo issue of celibacy within marriage. Like much of Roffey’s work, it weaves magical realism into a contemporary setting. Many well known literary writers, sex writers, and sex workers have applauded The Tryst. DBC Pierre said of it, "Not a shade of grey within a mile of this book. What makes The Tryst an unexploded virus isn't just the quality and brightness of Roffey's writing on sex, even as it uncovers inner glades between flesh and fantasy where sex resides – but the taunting clarity of why those glades stay covered. A throbbing homewrecker of a tale, too late to call Fifty Shades of Red."
Rowan Pelling, editor of The Amorist, also said, "The Tryst is a sly, feral, witty, offbeat erotic novella that unsettles the reader, even as it arouses. There are sex scenes of breath-taking audacity. What would any of us do if an irresistible sex daemon broke and entered our domestic lives, leaving havoc in her amoral wake? Monique Roffey knows that the real question about human desire is whether we even recognise our deepest yearnings. How can anyone resist what they have never even dreamt of?” Bidisha, writer and broadcaster said, “It's wild and witching, at once contemporary and atavistic, with an anarchic sexual energy running through it and a startling frankness, not only about sex, but about love and relationships, gender and power. ... a daring write and a consuming read."
A writer of dual nationality and perspective, Roffey writes about sex, fatherhood, the Caribbean and outsiders, be they the terminally awkward August Chalmin (in Sun Dog), the left-behind Europeans in Trinidad (George and Sabine Harwood in The White Woman on the Green Bicycle), or indeed herself. Stylistically, her work can be linked in terms of post-modern narrative choices, in that they often weave together magical realism, real-life historical characters and events, biography and autobiography to tackle themes of alienation and otherness.
- Sun Dog (2002), Scribner, Simon & Schuster UK
- "Finale" (short story; 2005), in New Writing 13, Picador
- The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (2009), Simon & Schuster UK
- The Global Village, Tell Tales (co-editor; 2009), Peepal Tree Press.
- With the Kisses of His Mouth (memoir; 2011), Simon & Schuster UK
- Archipelago (2012), Simon & Schuster UK
- House of Ashes (2014), Simon & Schuster UK
- The Tryst (2017), Dodo Ink
- 2010 Orange Prize, shortlisted for The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
- 2011 Encore Award, shortlisted for The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
- 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, winner of overall and fiction categories for Archipelago
- 2014 Orion Book Award, shortlisted for Archipelago
- 2015 Costa Book Awards shortlisted for House of Ashes
- 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlist, fiction, for House of Ashes
Machado Sáez, Elena (2015), "Messy Intimacies: Postcolonial Romance in Ana Menéndez, Dionne Brand, and Monique Roffey", Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, ISBN 978-0-8139-3705-2.
Owen, Katie. “A Man for All Seasons; New Fiction.” Review of Sun Dog, by Monique Roffey. The Times, 15 June 2002: 14.
Woodhead, Cameron. Review of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, by Monique Roffey. Age, 27 June 2009: 26.
- "Monique Roffey: 'I wanted what my parents had'", The Guardian, 8 May 2010.
- "Success Stories", English Literature and Creative Writing, Lancaster University.
- "Staff Profile: Dr Monique Roffey", Department of English, Manchester metropolitan University.
- Monique Roffey biography, Royal Literary Fund.
- "AofA People: Monique Roffey - Author, Lecturer" (interview), Advantages of Age, 15 August 2017.
- Kapka Kassabova, "Archipelago by Monique Roffey – review", The Guardian, 27 July 2012.
- Julien Neaves, "T&T writer takes top Bocas prize", Trinidad Express Newspapers, 28 April 2013.
- "rchipelago wins the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2013", Blake Friedmann, 29 April 2013.
- Tanya Batson-Savage, "Archipelago by Monique Roffey Cops Bocas Prize 2013", Susumba, 30 April 2012.
- "Trinidad-Born Author Wins Regional Prize For Literature", The Gleaner, 29 April 2013.
- "Trinis triumph at Bocas Lit Fest", Newsday, 2 May 2013.
- "Monique Roffey launches latest novel House of Ashes", Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 28 October 2014.
- Ian Thomson, "House of Ashes by Monique Roffey, review: 'knuckle-whitening'", The Telegraph, 22 July 2014.
- Lucy Scholes, "House of Ashes review – Monique Roffey's Caribbean coup d'etat", The Observer, 31 August 2014.
- Sun Dog page at Simon and Schuster UK.
- The White Woman on the Green Bicycle page at Simon and Schuster UK.
- With the Kisses of His Mouth page at Simon and Schuster UK.
- Archipelago page Archived 21 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine at Simon and Schuster UK.
- House of Ashes page at Simon and Schuster UK.
- Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) 2010 Archive.
- The Encore Award, 2011 Shortlist. Archived 3 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Essiba Small (15 July 2013). "Bocas winner's cover goes Underground". Trinidad Express. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- The 2014 Orion Book Award Archived 25 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Orion magazine.
- Official Website
- Staff Profile at MMU, Department of English
- Skyros Course Facilitator
- British Council Writers
- Interview by Arifa Akbar: "5 minutes with Monique Roffey", The Independent, 24 July 2009.
- Amanda Smyth Interviews Monique Roffey: 2010 "Trini and Amanda", Writers' Hub, 2 August 2010.
- "Monique Roffey: 'I wanted what my parents had'", The Guardian (London), 8 May 2010.
- Monique Roffey, "'Please sit down, I have something shocking to say…'", The Guardian, 18 June 2011.
- Monique Roffey, "Women and sex: intimate adventurers", The Guardian, Comment is free, 6 July 2011.
- David Bainbridge, "Monique Roffey: 'My 40s have been boom years, action-packed'", The Observer, 4 March 2012.
- "Roffey’s odyssey With the Kisses of His Mouth to Archipelago", Trinidad Guardian, 6 May 2012.
- Claire Allfree, "Monique Roffey: My soul lies firmly in the Caribbean", London Metro, 19 July 2012.
- "Monique Roffey takes a voyage of discovery", The Herald Scotland, 3 October 2012.
- Shivanee Ramlochan, 2012 "Braving the Sea", Trinidad Guardian, 16 September 2012.
- Essay, "Why do women who dare to write about their sexual life still face the pillory?", The Independent, 15 September 2012.
- Interview, Small Talk, Financial Times, 2 November 2014, "Q&A with author Monique Roffey"
- Interview by Danuta Kean, Monique Roffey interview: "Sex and power inform a very female coup", The Independent on Sunday, 22 July 2014
- Shivanee Ramlochan, "Big Caribbean Books of 2014", The Trinidad Guardian, 21 December 2014
- "Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections" (interview), Saturday Independent, 28 December 2014
- White Creole Conversations, Fresh Milk, 2015
- Interview, Parallel Worlds, by Sophie Harris, Wasafiri, Issue 83, Autumn 2015
- Kei Miller, "Marlon James’ Man Booker Prize heralds new Caribbean Era",The Guardian, 14 October 2015
- Essay, "Private Notes Made Public", Caribbean Quarterly, Volume 62, December, 2016
- Essay, "Lotus, Nun, Mysterious, Advantages of Age", August 2016
- Simon Lee, "The Write of Retreating", The Trinidad Guardian, 28 January 2016
- Article, The Times, 27 June 2017
- Article, The Telegraph, 3 July 2017
- Interview, by Suzanne Portnoy, The Advantages of Age
- Article, Daily Mail Online, 2 July 2017
- Review, The Guardian, 21 July 2017
- Review, TLS, 10 October 2017
- Review Shiny New books
- Review Lonesome Reader, 7 July 2017
- Review The Writes of Women, 14 September 2017
- Interview Wasafari