GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo

From the Back Cover

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, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements.  From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

My Thoughts

I’ve seen so many people proclaim that Bernardine Evaristo’s work must be something truly special if she can co-win the Booker alongside Margaret Atwood, but, after finishing GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER, I’ve got to say it must be the other way around!  In my mind, GIRL will always be the 2019 winner–sorry Ms. Atwood–and I don’t think a novel has ever been this deserving of all of the praise and recognition it has garnered.

“Gender is one of the biggest lies of our civilization.”

GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER is a wonderful tapestry of stories, a piece of patchwork which slowly transforms into a magnificent quilt.  The real gem of this book is the way it’s told; Evaristo brilliantly weaves together the stories of these twelve individuals (primarily black British women).  The narrative is split into four parts, each comprised of three stories told from the perspective of one of the twelve characters, and the story revolves around these characters joining together in various capacities for opening night of a play at London’s National Theatre.  As the characters became more and more connected, I became more and more engrossed!  Stories with surprisingly interconnected characters have always been a favorite, but I’ve never seen it done so well as Evaristo has done with GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER.  Add to that an entirely satisfying ending and poetry-like prose, and consider me blown away.

“Let us wonder at how X was just a rare letter until algebra came along and made it something special that can be unraveled to reveal inner value.”

Beyond an ingenious storytelling structure, Evaristo also touches on so many important, relevant political topics like Brexit and Trump, with particular attention to “minority” populations such as black women and trans men and women.  I admire the way Evaristo so easily finds a home for this social commentary in her narrative, and her approach to these subjects makes the story even more emotionally touching and meaningful.

I’m so happy to say that GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER completely surpassed all of my expectations and has quickly become a new favorite.  This is a novel I will highly, highly recommend for a long time to come (especially for anyone interested in further reading and/or supporting black authors!).  I am truly in awe of Evaristo’s immense talent, and I’m SO eager to read her entire backlist!

6 Comments

  1. Rose @ Novels & Teacups

    This is my favourite book of the year so far – I totally agree that the structure is so ingenious and compelling, and I love the way the stories were all interconnected in subtle and unique ways. The social history was also so fascinating, I especially enjoyed Amma’s parts in the artist squats in 80’s London, and the (shocking) experience of the characters arriving in the 50s from the Caribbean. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Literary Elephant

    Yay, I’m so glad you loved this one! I also like to consider this one the “true” winner of the Booker prize last year; I generally love Atwood’s writing and stories, but GWO is truly a masterpiece. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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