Books Read in 2022 – 21. Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo

Genre: LGBT, Feminism, Race

Narrative Style: Third person from the perspective of 12 different, interconnected characters

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2019

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Girl, Woman, Other describes the lives of 12 women, all of whom are linked in someway to Amma, a theatre director whose play ‘The Last Amazon of Dahomie’ is premiering at the National Theatre.

Time on shelf: I bought this not long after it won the Booker Prize.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. Amma, the first character we meet, is quite politically driven and I was worried that the polemic might overrule the charactersiation. However, overall, this is not the case. Evaristo gives different political points of view, for a start, and her characters are all more than just their views and opinions.

I also wasn’t sure if I would get used to the style with its lack of punctuation but actually I got used to the free flowing poetic prose very quickly and it definitely suited the voices and lives that Evaristo has chosen to show us. It was easy to read whilst also being emotional and affecting.

The range of characters is interesting and shows the depth and range of black women’s lives. For example, after Amma, we meet her daughter, Yazz and her university friends. We meet Carole who abandons her cultural identity to become a successful business woman, her mother, Bummi and her teacher, Shirley, as well as another teacher in the school, Penelope who is raised white by her adoptive parents. The stories stretch across the centuries and continents.

I did find it a bit dizzying at times, remembering how everyone related to each other. Also, inevitably there were some characters I would have liked to have known for longer. You would read one character, start to get used to their foibles and idiosyncrasies and it would be on to the the next one. Similar to reading Tales of the City, there were times when I wished there were fewer people to deal with.

Despite that, this is a very good read. There were moments when I felt the politics were more polemic but they were few and far between. Sometimes the characters – particularly the men- felt a little stereotypical but for the most part, I was involved and I was keen to read on. Would definitely recommend.