Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo: Review & Recommend | LATEST RELEASES

I have previously received PR products (free review copies) from Penguin

TWs: rape, domestic abuse.

Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize (joint with Atwood’s The Testaments) in 2019, and now in 2020 has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction award. Being so highly recognised made me really want to read this book, and having seen a lot of other people picking it up recently, I knew I had to get round to it.

Girl, Woman, Other is not a story in the traditional sense. It is split into twelve parts (plus an epilogue), each part focusing on a different character. Of the 12 characters the book follows, one is non-binary, several are sapphic, and there is a wide variety of different class backgrounds and races. Oh, and the only punctuation the book uses is commas.

This book is such an interesting look into Black, and female, British experiences. Each of the characters has a completely different story to tell, but all of the stories interlink in such a way that this cannot be called a collection of short stories. I don’t know if I would call it a novel, either. It’s more of an exploration of the different facets of marginalised identity and experience, a series of character studies, perhaps. Bear with this review — this book is very different to what I’m used to reviewing so I’m not sure how this will all come together.

The first, and arguably central character, around whom all of the others converge somehow, is Amma, a polyamorous lesbian activist, script writer and mother. I found Amma one of the most interesting characters, which is perhaps less about the quality of the other characters and more about the fact we learn more about her, as several of the other characters revolve around her. I would have liked to have had more of a chance to get to know some of the characters better as I was often left wanting more at the end of the section, but the way the book connects all the characters together meant we did get a little bit more, and always best for an author to leave you wanting more than to oversaturate you with information and leave you bored.

Girl Woman Other Bernadine Evaristo review

The writing style does take a while to get into, as there are no full stops, no sentences, no punctuation except commas. Just line breaks and paragraph breaks. I really liked the style as it felt as though it was creating a bridge between prose and poetry, taking traditional poetic conventions and translating them into a prose novel. I became less and less aware of the unique style as the book went on, the sign that something has been executed well for me. It didn’t feel gimmicky at all, which is always a concern I have when I go into a book that does something stylistically unconventional like this, but when it gets pulled off (like Evaristo does), I love it.

Some of the characters felt more believable than others — Yazz, Amma’s daughter felt a bit like a caricature as a modern-day teenager rather than an actual modern-day teenager from my experience of having very recently been a teenager. It was more the middle-aged characters that shone to me, and I was particularly interested in the character of Dominique, Amma’s friend from her youth. Dominique falls in love with an American woman and moves to America with her, only to discover she is severely controlling, manipulative and abusive. I haven’t read much that deals with this kind of long-term, extremely controlling domestic abuse, so it was a new perspective for me. The relationship felt convincing to me, as did Dominique’s struggle to get out of it. Even after her escape from the relationship, there are still ways in which both Dominique and her abuser are still trapped in it, neither able to fully move on.

The political aspect of this book is part of what drew me to it, and it didn’t disappoint. It isn’t just about the identity of the characters that makes this book political, it’s also about their ideology, their radicalism, their personal politics. Their identity and experiences shape all of these, of course, but it was still really interesting to be reading about these radical womxn and their political protests as well as just reading about the experiences of marginalised groups.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Girl, Woman, Other, though a couple of the characters didn’t quite hit the mark for me, which is what’s holding this book back from a 4.5 or 5 rating. Other than the few characters that didn’t quite feel believable, I really enjoyed reading this book and I’ll definitely be looking for more of Bernadine Evaristo’s work to sink my teeth into. I’d definitely recommend this for anyone who’s after a book about Black British, or in fact sapphic British experiences, and if you’re interested in the intersections between class, race, sexuality and gender, this is definitely the book for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Also published on GoodReads and The StoryGraph.

19 thoughts on “Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo: Review & Recommend | LATEST RELEASES

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