WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
“A must-read about modern Britain and womanhood . . . An impressive, fierce novel about the lives of black British families, their struggles, pains, laughter, longings and loves . . . Her style is passionate, razor-sharp, brimming with energy and humor. There is never a single moment of dullness in this book and the pace does not allow you to turn away from its momentum.” —Booker Prize Judges
Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.
Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Nobody lives in a vacuum, especially in a city like London where people’s lives intersect every moment of the day. Girl, Woman, Other follows 12 very different characters, each with their own chapter; the experience is like reading novel, a short-story collection, and a prose poem in one. Bernardine Evaristo’s writing flows across the page with no capitalization and minimal punctuation—let yourself sink into the words and become part of the experience. Empathetic, frank, and unflinching, this multifaceted portrait of black British women’s lives will have you fretting over these women’s struggles and sharing their laughter and joy.
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.)\n
Kinfolk, Skin-folk, and Other Ties
This one goes in a bit of every direction. Fitting since a big portion of it artfully presents the fluidity of Gender, Identity, and Sexuality across many years and intersecting lives. This novel brings together an orchestral ensemble of varying viewpoints, experiences, and voices. It is alarmingly impressive how Evaristo can give stage to so many distinct voices and characters.
Evaristo simultaneously guides us through the multitude of identity politics and ideology while also illuminating its limits. The sometimes relentless pursuit to atomic level divisions that separate us from those we would ascribe as kinfolk. Necessary identifying groupings that at the same time could hide even the blood connections that tie us to something larger.
I really enjoyed the ping pong narrative technique that moves the story through time from multiple perspectives. A refreshing and engaging approach to storytelling. The storytelling style also serves the purpose of spotlighting individual experiences without becoming disorienting as the book progresses. Packed with a generous serving of subplots and through lines, this book has something for everybody.
Redefining the novel
So much information is crammed into this busy book. At times the prose was a little too precious and more like a long poem. I liked the chapter focus on one person at a time. Yet the novel lacked a string to hold all the characters’ stories together. Rather, it was a fleeting glimpse into their lives and I was left longing for more depth.
Loved this book!
Upbeat, hopeful, smart.