Review of Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Evaristo offers a set of twelve interconnected stories about Black women in contemporary Britain and their friendships, loves, struggles, and successes.
The twelve women in Girl, Woman, Other --each of whom gets a chapter to tell her story, which is often joined in progress--are mothers, daughters, friends, and lovers concerned with sexuality, autonomy, race, artistic expression, tradition, class, education, loyalty, and how each of these factors shape their past, present, and future identities as Black British women.
We get to know something about life in contemporary Britain through the varied interconnected friendships, partnerships, loves, struggles, successes, and the ways in which these twelve women's lives are affected by past colonialism and the present-day British environment.
Evaristo expresses the women's linked life stories using largely concrete language, without a lot of fluff and often limited dialogue. The characters frequently intersperse political, historical, feminist, cultural, and other context throughout their stories and conversations. All of this--along with the sheer number of protagonists Evaristo presents--could potentially and naturally keep the reader at somewhat of a distance from the characters. Yet the stories of several of the protagonists felt particularly easy for me to connect with (for example, Dominique and Carole) as they shared their adventures, hopes, missteps, and joys.
I was most fascinated by the looping and sometimes surprising interconnectedness of the characters. During the multiple lessons the characters gave each other about feminism and gender--complete with references to authors, activists, texts, and more--I felt as though I were taking a class; I was interested in the facts but didn't feel drawn into the characters or their stories during those sections.
Any Bossy thoughts about this book?
This title garnered a lot of attention in 2019 when Evaristo won the Booker Prize for it. I listened to Girl, Woman, Other as an audiobook (as directed by my smarty friend Kirstan) to get the full, glorious effect of having the story told to me in a British accent.
I mentioned this book in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 1/18/21 Edition.