Book review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo


Title: Girl, Woman, Other

Author: Bernardine Evaristo

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Grove Atlantic

Publication date: 5th November 2019 (Kindle)

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, works hard to earn a degree from Oxford and becomes an investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. Other central characters include a nonbinary social media influencer, a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, and a woman who retires to Barbados harboring a secret of sex and betrayal. Class, race, age, sexuality, and chance separate and connect this constellation of unforgettable characters, as Evaristo shows with great artistry how our worldview is inevitably shaped by our background and how we are all linked by the fabric of society.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative and fast-moving form that borrows from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that reminds us of everything that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

My review:

Girl, Woman, Other is an ode to identity, strength and perseverance. It follows twelve women of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds with different pasts and goals whose paths cross at some point in their lives. It narrates the struggles these women have faced, from abuse to social exclusion, and praises the successes of each one however small or big they may be. It explores complex topics like race, sexuality and spirituality through its twelve diverse characters. And most of all, it celebrates these women as the beautifully flawed people they are and gives room for reflection without any bias.

When it comes to character and setting, Evaristo proudly and rightfully shows off her incredible storytelling skills as she builds up to the final chapters where the twelve characters’ journeys collide. Each character is unique in her identity and I adored getting to know them all. Although there were twelve different stories, there was never a moment where I felt that the narrative was too repetitive or the stories too similar. By the end the characters came to life and their adventures felt so vivid that they could easily have been real.

Unfortunately I struggled a lot with the writing style and pace. The book is written in prose with no full stops and, although I admire this unconventional style which fits with the tone of the book, I could not get used to this structure and found my thoughts drifting with the lack of punctuation. As a result it took me a very long time to finish the book as I was forced to keep reading back to understand what had happened. For me this was the biggest drawback and had it not been for this style I would have easily considered this to be the book of the year.

Despite not taking a liking to the writing style, I still found a lot to love in Girl, Woman, Other. It felt revolutionary to me, partly because I am ashamed to say that I did not previously consider the struggles that black women face in society. This book truly opened my eyes to some of these hardships and encouraged me to reflect on this more, which I am very grateful for. After finishing Girl, Woman, Other I can completely understand why it won the 2019 Booker Prize and will continue to encourage others to read this book so they can understand it for themselves.

Girl, Woman, Other is now out to buy!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

10 thoughts on “Book review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

  1. What a fantastic review, Darina! You write compellingly about the characters and their influence on you and your mindset. The feminist in me feels so drawn to the premise of this book, my curiosity further piqued by your assiduous review. I think you have nothing to be ashamed of – I am not surprised that you hadn’t thought of the way a black woman, for example, experiences life: becoming aware of other people’s viewpoints and those of marginalised groups is society is part of one’s personal growth. And herein lies the beauty of an author’s mastery of the written word: look how amazingly Evaristo has encouraged and stimulated your sense of social justice and compassion.
    In addition, I also think that human constructs such as society, religion and education have ensured to condition women over the centuries to just accept the way they experience life as the norm, however different that experience may be to a male’s, for example. But that’s an entirely different conversation!
    Going back to your review, I am wondering what circumstances culminated in the meeting of such diverse and so many characters! What was their life path, their dreams, their past and present?
    Like you, I am uncertain about the writing style – no full stops would test my patience. Yet your review has firmly put this book on my to read list, thank you for sharing your thoughts !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! These women all led such different lives that it’s difficult to constrict their paths in one. Their journeys do come together eventually and that part I found very interesting because they come from such different socioeconomic backgrounds. I am glad that I encouraged you to read this book through my review and am looking forward to hearing what you think!

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  2. Great review! And I really appreciate you mentioning the lack of punctuation – for this alone, I will not be trying this book as I would find it too difficult to read. Unfortunately for me, style is a lot more important than content when I’m reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! Like nsford, I’m glad you mentioned the lack of punctuation – I’m afraid I hate these stylistic quirks and won’t be reading it for that reason. I wish authors would accept that punctuation exists for a reason!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I do agree with you to an extent – punctuation makes reading so much easier! However, when written well I would make an exception and read something a bit different like this book, for example. The lack of punctuation definitely makes it much harder to read so it takes a very long time!

      Liked by 1 person

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