Author: Bernadine Evaristo
Rating: 5 stars
Dates read: 25 Nov 19 – 25 Jan 20
Publication date: 02 May 19
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton – Penguin Books UK
Genre(s): Contemporary, Feminism, Short Stories
This is Britain as you’ve never seen 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 . . .
*I received a copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Penguin Books UK in exchange for a fair and honest review*
When the Man Booker Prize Winner(s) for 2019 was released, I think we were all simultaneously the most surprised and least surprised we could be, right? I had been trying to read some of the ‘longlist’ titles, and in part had enjoyed some of them, but hadn’t got round to reading the joint winner. Bernadine Evaristo was (wrongly) relatively unheard of in the wider reading world, and her book was disgustingly under pushed in the shops (a rant about this could fill a whole blog post in itself) so I set about reading this book, and was completely blown away.
Girl, Woman, Other is less a single novel and more a collection of interlinked short stories that coalesce to create a rich and diverse tapestry that spans gender, race, culture, and time. Evaristo has constructed a series of narrative that feel wholly authentic no matter the perspective of the character, and has an ability to deconstruct any blockade to understanding the mind and story of someone who has a different background from both each character and each reader.
The stories that were told through the novel were all stories from the perspective of those who are considered to be a minority in the British community as the time their stories are told. I found it really fascinating, and at points both heart warming and heart breaking, to read such complex narratives. Reading from their points of view, how their lives exist and evolve in the face of discrimination or in built lack of privilege was really eye opening and really made me think about society around me as well as in the story. The way the stories, which at first seemed completely unrelated, interweaved by the end to show how even lives that seem separate can influence each other and can cross over when we don’t know or aren’t expecting it.
The narrative style was really unique, from the physical appearance of the words on the page, to the feeling created for each perspective. Evaristo managed to create a separate and unique narrative voice for each story and character that was both unique and crafted to their short tale, but also made each character stand out to the reader. She has a wonderful way of expressing the character’s thoughts and feelings in a really genuine and warm way.
The book was more than deserving of the praise it received. It was one of my favourite reads of the last couple of years, and was a really extraordinary piece of fiction that really focused on the ordinary and elevated it to another level. I really think this was deserving of the Man Booker in it’s own right, and to be hailed and celebrated of it’s own accord, and I really cannot recommend it highly enough.