Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
I had such high hopes for this book for obvious reasons: joint winner fo The Booker Prize last year and currently shortlisted for The Women's Prize for Fiction. One of my main concerns was that the literary styles that are usually associated with prize winning books are a lot less accessible and harder to consume. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to get into this book.
Girl, Woman, Other follows 12 women, most of them being black and British. The book spans many generations of women trying to find themselves, whilst their individual stories overlap. Each character has their own chapter, split into four groups of three. Despite the overlapping nature of the characters journeys, all of the women have massively contrasting backgrounds and upbringings. Ranging from Amma, the middle-aged lesbian to a teacher named Shirley who doesn't understand Amma's way of life. Then there's Megan/Morgan, who is non-binary and is dating a transgender woman, and her great-grandmother, Hattie who lives on a farm in the north of England and has taken and ancestry test to discover she has African ancestors.
The writing is not entirely traditional. Besides the use of commas, all punctuation has been removed so it somewhat reads like slam poetry. I was unaware of the use of prose before starting, so it took me several pages to get used to it, but I was quickly engrossed. The language is still simple, so despite the innovative format, it is still easy to understand. I think part of the reason I was able to consume the stories so quickly and was easily able to understand was due to the first chapter containing the stories of my favourites of the 12 women. I rarely read about f/f romances so these were so enjoyable to me. The world that is so perfectly painted by Evaristo is one that I expect many readers will not have had the opportunity to visit often: black, gay, British women is not the most mainstream context. However the complexity and differentiation between the characters truly sets this book apart when up against other books containing a variety of diverse character studies. The only downfall of the book is one that is entirely predictable - and I expect the same small issue everyone experienced. I wasn't in love with every single character. All are flawed, which is what makes many of them perfect and interesting. However, I was considerably less invested and drawn in by some chapters than I was by others. This will likely be the case for many readers as it's unlikely a single person will be able to connect to all 12 of these women. I would absolutely recommend this book to everyone. It has become so mainstream and well-loved by the time I picked it up. This makes me so happy to see so many readers choosing to access a range of areas of diversity. I think this book is also a must read for anyone in a bookclub as it makes for a perfect discussion. I cannot wait to find out who everyone's favourites and least favourites were - and share mine too!
Initial Prediction: 5 stars
Final Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: 2 May 2019 (my edition: 5 May 2020)
# of Pages: 464