Book Reviews / Books

Girl Woman Other Book Review

03.23.21

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo had been on my reading pile for months by the time I finally got around to reading it. Like many people, I had watched in bafflement when the Booker judges made the notorious decision to award the 2019 prize to both Evaristo and Atwood – a choice that broke the rules implemented in 2019 which stated that only one author could be crowned winner. And while the decision to throw out the rule book and anoint two winners rather than the usual one was met widely with outrage, both authors took the verdict in their strides.

My good friend David Wade – who I met when working on the Women’s Prize for Fiction in London, but who now lives in Sydney – had long said it was one of his favourite books, and so, when planning forthcoming events for The Bondi Literary Salon, I decided to choose Girl, Woman, Other for our February book club pick. A book that proved so popular that we held two concurrent events, I finished it the day before interviewing Kate Mosse for my podcast – during which we discussed the controversial Booker win.

Girl Woman Other Book Review

My biggest concern prior to reading Girl, Woman, Other was that I would find the writing style somewhat jarring. Known – and loved by many – for its ‘fusion fiction’, the absence of full stops and the long sentences, it’s not a style I always enjoy (my intense dislike for Ulysses being a case in point), but I loved it from the moment I started reading.

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A tale that follows the lives of twelve women in contemporary London, Girl, Woman, Other is not only a nuanced look at the vignettes that make up each of the character’s lives, it too is an intimate and insightful exploration of the black British experience.  

A vibrantly depiction of a contemporary Britain that is not often found in the pages of a book, Girl, Woman, Other fuses a powerful feminist narrative with a disregard for the normal conventions of punctuation, and deeply rhythmical prose. The characters are broad and beautifully flawed, coming as they do from a variety of backgrounds, ages, roots, class systems, occupations, families and sexual preferences. The book explores race, identity and class, and it looks at the struggles forced upon minorities as they navigate living in a society so dominated by white power and fragility. Evaristo seamlessly weaves a tapestry of women’s lives together, all of which centre around what it is to be black, and too, what it is to be female.

An accessible, vivid and vibrant book that offers a voice to the untold stories of black women – both in the UK, and in the wider world as a whole – Girl, Woman, Other is a poetic and prose-rich tale that is profoundly moving, powerful and poignant and should be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand more about class, about race, and ultimately, about humanity.

Buy Girl, Woman, Other from Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.

Further reading

This year, Bernadine Evaristo is chair of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Read more about her role here. If, like me, you loved the mention of music throughout Girl, Woman, Other, there’s a Spotify playlist that features all the songs Evaristo included in her novel.

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Girl Woman Other Summary

Teeming with energy, humour and heart, a love song to black Britain told by twelve very different people.

Twelve very different people, mostly black and female, more than a hundred years of change, and one sweeping, vibrant, glorious portrait of contemporary Britain. Bernardine Evaristo presents a gloriously new kind of history for this old country: ever-dynamic, ever-expanding and utterly irresistible.

Bernadine Evaristo Author Bio

Bernardine Evaristo is the author of Lara, winner of the Emma Best Book Award in 1999, The Emperor’s Babe and Soul Tourists. She is a former Poet in Residence at the Museum of London, and her work has been widely anthologized. She won a prestigious Arts Council Writers Award in 2000.

More Bernadine Evaristo Books

Other Berndine Evaristo books include: Blonde Roots, Mr Loverman, Hello Mum, Soul Tourists and The Emperor’s Babe.

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