Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a modern novel telling the stories of twelve women in the United Kingdom. They are predominantly black, female and many are in the LGBTQI community. Evaristo is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University in London which shows in the books structure and form. The lack of punctuation annoyed the heck out of me and I struggled with the first quarter of the book for this reason. After that it didn’t seem to worry me so much and I wondered if it lulled me into the headspace of the women whose stories we were told. It was certainly a world that I have had little, if any knowledge of.
To me it appeared as though a number of short stories had been placed together with some tenuous linking. My old brain struggled to remember how the characters fitted together and found myself having to revisit earlier parts of the book to work it out. For me there were too many characters in a book that had little storyline. The characters were well described and we knew their background, thoughts and sexual predilections but they were there for such a short time that it was hard for the reader to form a relationship with them. However, it did educate me and the difficulties of being black in a white society came through strongly and I think that is a good thing.
The book won the 2019 Booker Prize and in 2020 the British Book Award’s Author of the Year and the Indie Book Award for fiction. It is also currently nominated for awards in Australia and USA. It is No 1 on the UK top selling list and has been there for 23 weeks – a first for an author who is a woman of colour. Obviously it is worth reading.
I have often asked the question ” what is more important – the writing or the story?” For me this book answers that question – Most definitely the story. However, this book did keep me reading, the writing was good (minus punctuation) and I don’t regret having read it.
Would I recommend it: Probably but not with as much enthusiasm as with some of the other books I have reviewed. I did get a feel for a style of life outside my own and as we know – my thoughts are subjective – many others have loved this book. Nicola Sturgeon on twitter says of it “Beautifully interwoven stories of identity, race, womanhood, and the realities of modern Britain. The characters are so vivid, the writing is beautiful and it brims with humanity.”
I’d love to know your thoughts if you read it or have already read it.