Book review by Dinh.
To be honest, I have not heard of Bernadine Evaristo’s book Girl, Woman, Other that won the Booker Prize 2019. One of our readers recommended it and we took a look.
The book’s jacket blurb piqued our interest – themes of identity intersected with black British women set in Britain! That’s right up my alley!
Going in and not knowing what to expect, I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying it.
Here’s what I loved about the book and why you should check it out:
Unique Story line
Girl, Woman, Other has a unique story line.
The story line of the book is not your usual run of the mill plot but a collection of stories based on the characters and how they entwine.
The group of women are black and British and through them we get their life stories and explore themes such as class, culture, racism, and sexual identity to name a few.
This polyphonic story, has twelve very different characters whose narratives and points of view and voices are distinct as their diversity.
Evaristo’s style of writing is one of a kind!
The book has does not have punctuation where you would expect it. There’s no full stops/periods. Parts are written like poetry and other parts were elegant prose. It’s like everything goes! Evaristo has termed her style as fusion fiction to describe her free forming writing.
I initially struggled with reading the message-like text (I am finicky about grammar), but I overcame it after I switched over and listened to the audio book. I personally think that this book is best enjoyed by listening to it.
Although the writing is not done in the usually manner, the tone and pace of the book was great. Evaristo does not waste words and depicts the story without fluff. It kept the book moving along.
I loved how Evaristo depicted the character’s lives- it was raw and gritty, and on point. I could relate to all the characters. Their life stories were diverse and interesting.
What won me over was how Evaristo realistically portrayed some of the issues that are applicable everywhere – relationships between mother and daughters, teenage pregnancy, immigrant experience, growing up poor etc. As an ex-pat, I knew first hand what it was like growing up in Britain in the 80s and 90s. Evaristo hits the mark on the various themes.
I particularly enjoyed LaTisha’s story and how she ended up with three kids at nineteen. This was not a surprise as back then teenage pregnancy was a big problem in the U. K. LaTisha was Carole’s friend from school until Carole changed and stopped hanging out with her. The ‘New LaTisha’ is more mature and grown up.
I really enjoyed how the characters were connected and you get to find out how they were connected as the story reveals itself. It’s like the Kevin Bacon and six degrees of separation theory but with Amma as the main person to connect.
The twelve main characters are all unique and interesting. The author did a great job in depicting each character, their voices and distinct points of view that made them relatable.
- Amma is a playwright and her works centers on exploring black lesbian identity.
- Yazz is Amma’s 19 years old daughter who is at university.
- Carole was gang-raped as a teenager. With the help of Mrs. King (Shirley) got on track at school. Carole later became Vice President of a banking company.
- Dominique works with Amma and is her friend. Dominique falls in love with Nzinga and follows her to USA.
- Bummi is Carole’s mother and is an immigrant from Nigeria. Bummi started her own cleaning company and cleans Penelope Halifax’s home.
- LaTisha was Carole’s friend at high school. She ends up with 3 kids as a teenager and works at the supermarket. The ‘New’ LaTisha, gets her A levels and is supervisor.
- Shirley is Amma’s friend from grammar school. She is a teacher at Peckham Schooland teaches Carole and LaTisha.
- Winsome is Shirley’s mother. Winsome has an affair with Shirley’s husband Lennox.
- Penelope is a teacher at Peckham School. Penelope was adopted and raised by white parents. Her biological mother was Hattie
- Megan/Morgan identified as gender free. Lectures Yazz at university.
- Hattie is Morgan’s great grandmother and is 93 years old living on a farm in Northumbrian countryside.
- Grace is Hattie’s mother. Grace is bi-racial daughter of Daisy and Abyssinian Wolde.
I loved how the story came together at the end.
We begin at beginning with Amma’s story and how her play The Last Amazon of Dahomey was going to open at the National theatre, and end with the After-party.
I loved that the epilogue had a nice closure for Penelope. Having being adopted, Penelope didn’t know who her birth parents were. With Ancestry DNA testing it was possible to find and trace one’s roots.
“this is not about feeling something or about speaking words
this is about being
My Final Thoughts
Although I was initially hesitant about Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, I ended up loving the book.
The audio book was excellent! I loved the diverse characters and their stories. Each story highlighted various themes and issues the characters faced.
Fast paced and compelling, it’s a book I highly recommend to everyone who likes to read about different cultures.
Belong to a book club? Check out Girl, Woman, Other book club discussion questions.