Girl, Woman, Other- Bernadine Evaristo
By Laura Mclellan
Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
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.
Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.
I REALLY enjoyed this book and am so pleased that Evaristo was awarded the Booker Prize, alongside feminist legend, Margaret Atwood, no less!
Each of the 12 characters has a set of chapters within which their lives are developed. We see relationships, events, stereotypes and dreams through the characters’ own eyes; each woman unique and individual, a believable tangle of strength and weakness.
The women’s lives overlap, which adds continuity to what would be an otherwise fragmented structure. It also adds comedy and tragedy. As a reader we are privy to the whole picture while the women themselves are limited by their own perspectives and experiences.
Set in Brexit-era London, this is a modern celebration of individuality and self-identity.
It invites us all to question our own, perhaps hidden or repressed, racial and gender-based stereotypes, whether they be on the patriarchal or feminist end of the spectrum!
It reminds us that what really counts is the person underneath the labels.
An over-all feel good read with some gritty realism that makes the characters all the more relatable.
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