THE SUNDAY TIMES 1# BESTSELLER & BOOKER PRIZE WINNER
*One of Goodreads Most Popular Books of the Past Decade*
This is Britain as you've never read it.
This is Britain as it has never been told.
From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They're each looking for something - a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . . .
'The most absorbing book I read all year' Roxane Gay
'[Bernardine Evaristo] is one of the very best that we have' Nikesh Shukla
'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' Nicola Sturgeon
'A choral love song to black womanhood in modern Great Britain' Elle
'Bernardine Evaristo can take any story from any time and turn it into something vibrating with life' Ali Smith
'Exceptional. You have to order it right now' Stylist
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Bernardine Evaristo’s Inside Story: “Winning the Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other has just been a phenomenal experience. I feel like I haven’t stopped running since. Even my feelings around the BBC situation are very positive [in their coverage of the 2019 Turner Prize being shared between four artists, the BBC referred to Evaristo as “another author” while referencing her joint Booker Prize win with Margaret Atwood]. The outrage that people felt for it was actually very heartening. I got a sense that there is a community of people out there who really value my achievement [Evaristo is the first black female winner] and want to see it acknowledged.
“There was always this argument that there was no readership for black British writing. But now, writers have come through and done very well. I think my book is proving that experimental and quite cutting-edge black writing can also resonate with people whose stories are far removed from these characters. Because Girl, Woman, Other is quite radical in many ways: there are women on the queer spectrum exploring class and gender and race, plus there’s a non-binary character.
“A lot of people have said to me that they find the book very insightful into lives they knew nothing about. So it feels like the book has this educational aspect to it—which isn’t what I was trying to do. Nor was I trying to define our lives. I was just trying to broaden the scope of our lives in fiction. But the actual consequence of that is that people feel they’re being educated. The book was written in 2013, at a time when there weren’t many books out there about black British women and so we were not fashionable in any way. But during the period between writing and release, things changed and society shifted. Which was interesting for me, because I don’t usually write anything that’s topical!
“To be honest, some of the first reviews were not as exceptional as some of the reviews I’ve had for other works, so I didn’t think it was going to be my big breakthrough novel. But I was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize, which was the first reassuring thing that happened, and then the Booker experience took it to a very different place.
“A favourite character from the book? Well, I had a lot of fun with Yazz. She’s certainly no modelled on a young me—I was very serious when I was younger and not entitled. Yazz is someone who has big expectations and is loosely based on one of my godchildren when she was younger. They do know that, and she complained that I didn’t credit her in the book for being the inspiration. She’s not really Yazz, but she is that kind of young, clever, feisty, full-of-life character who’s very critical of her parents and would really make me laugh.
“So, Yazz is 19 and then we have Hattie at 93 years old. I found Hattie much harder to write because I don’t know anything about farming up in Northumberland. Or indeed farming, full stop. So she took a lot of research, but as a character I also found her rich and complex, very funny and formidable. She’s such an unusual figure for British fiction. A 93-year-old farmer living independently completely compos mentis, and also a woman of colour. Those two characters are the two I am perhaps most invested in.
“I have a non-binary character [Morgan], so I did a lot of online research into what it’s like to be non-binary and the reasons why people choose that, or feel that they have been chosen for that. When I began writing I was trying to understand issues around being transgender and I did understand at a deeper level what they might mean, which was very helpful in writing the character.
“I then came to the conclusion that actually, for me, it makes more sense to be non-binary than it is to be trans male or trans female. Because gender is not inherent in who we are as people. Being a woman and being a man is very much performance. So why, one could propose, would you go from one performance to another? So, I thought while writing Morgan, the most obvious thing to do would be to not associate with either gender: to reject the idea or agenda of either. It was very educational for me.
“I feel one of the things that might be a result of me winning the Booker is that people will be more open to experimental voices from my community and black writers. I think there’s an important difference between experimenting with fiction and it being inaccessible, and experimenting with fiction and making it readable. I am totally disinterested in writing something that will only be accessible to people with a PhD in experimental fiction.
“When I wrote these 12 black women characters, I really wanted them to be out there, and for them to reach people—the 12 black British women who wouldn’t necessarily find a home in the houses of middle England are out there. But I had to allow the form to be the form that it is. So I’m just delighted that this experimental work is not proving to be a problem for people. In fact, I was recently talking to a dyslexic person who finds it really hard to read. She was telling me how easy she found the book to read. The absence of full stops and the way it’s presented on the page allowed her not to get hung up on English grammar. The words were more immediately accessible to her.”
Evaristo (Mr. Loverman) beguiles with her exceptional depictions of a range of experiences of black British women in this Man Booker shortlisted novel. Each interconnected chapter focuses on one of 12 women across decades within a few degrees of connection to middle-aged lesbian Amma. In the present, Amma remembers her years of precarious living and feminist agitation through theater while preparing for the opening night of her of her play about African Amazonian warriors at the National Theatre. Amma's firebrand daughter, Yazz, hopes for a boyfriend at university but instead forms a diverse friend group that challenges her ideas about race and privilege. Amma's best friend, Dominique, moves to America with an increasingly controlling girlfriend. Amma's oldest friend, Shirley, is a discouraged schoolteacher, still hurt that her former student Carole did not appreciate her help launching her toward her lucrative, if frustrating, bank career. Shirley's prickly colleague Penelope, a twice-divorced middle-class woman, hires Carole's mother, Bummi, a Nigerian immigrant, as a cleaner. Morgan, a non-binary social media personality, enjoys laboring on the family's north England farm, while their nonagenarian great-grandmother, Hattie, internally grumbles about her descendants' indifference and the shock of family secrets. Hattie's deceased mother, Grace, proudly Abyssinian, struggles with the death of her young children in a chapter set in the 1920s. The after-party following Amma's play sparks awkward and revealing encounters between many of the women. Evaristo's fresh, clipped style adds urgency riddled with sparks of humor. This is a stunning powerhouse of vibrant characters and heartbreaks.)
Loved this book.
Girl, Woman, Other
I wanted to read this book after it shared the Booker Prize with one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a big story, sweeping across different continents and through different centuries but also focusing in on the minutiae of the lives of the female characters, all of whom are rich and varied, and kept me wanting to know more. I loved Girl, Woman, Other and look forward to reading her previous works.