Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
2020 marks the tenth year of me reviewing every single book I read. It’s become something familiar and routine - read book, sit down, type up thoughts, post, select next book, repeat. I don’t find it difficult to report my thoughts my feelings, and I’m pretty capable of putting these together succinctly and efficiently. Until, of course, a book like Girl, Woman, Other arrests me with its power and renders me utterly incapable of describing how it made me feel. It’s a frustrating feeling, but also one which reinforces my confidence in majesty of the book.
As 2019’s winner of the Booker prize, it would be completely superfluous for me to say this book is a triumph, but it is. A masterpiece. A sensation. And fuck it, yeah, a tour de force.
a tour de force, he says, although I would never use such a cliche, you understand
Evaristo writes of twelve women, each of them black (although some unaware), each of them British, and each of them incredibly engrossing, inspiring, and educating. We dig deeply into their lives, their strengths, and their failures, alongside the ways in which the colour of their skin manifests itself as an obstacle to be overcome. There’s a lot to learn and retain, particularly if you’re a white woman, like me, sitting reading in your white privilege bubble.
Evaristo has a unique style; irrevocably captivating in its simplicity, yet clutching your heart in its fingers. It’s profound, and it’s stark, elegant yet raw. The unstoppable force of her text brings joy, sorrow, hope, grief, hatred, love, and most of all, the strength of friendship and coming together.
The greatest of devices here is that each of these women are interlinked, directly or otherwise, throughout the pages. They all brush shoulders with, unknowingly influence, or flicker in and out of each other in a really realistic and gorgeous way. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when you suddenly realise someone being described has been mentioned before, and piecing this together is one of the most satisfying parts of this book.
I wish I had more (or better) words to describe the warmth I feel for this book and the women within it. All I can do now is urge you to read it (and to those of you who read my reviews and know me personally - I will be urging you to read it when I see you), and hope you’ll be blown off your feet as I’ve been.
Bernardine, thank you. I have never read anything from a Booker prize winner quite like this, and it was so so deserved.