When a book achieves a lot of success and generates attention, I always wonder if it will live up to my expectations. I don’t know what I was expecting of Bernardine Evaristo’s eighth novel, and even after reading, I can’t quite find the words to describe it. All I can do is urge you to read it. Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other, explores race and feminism in an honest, gripping, and challenging way. All the characters are intelligently and unexpectedly woven together to create a narrative full of representation.
“this is not about feeling something or about speaking words
this is about being
For anyone who hasn’t heard of this novel (where are you?), it explores the stories of twelve diverse women as they discuss their backgrounds, relationships and the journeys that have taken them to where they are now. The women are grouped into threes, and are closely connected, yet throughout the novel we discover that all the women are interconnected in some way. That’s all I’ll say on the plot as I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I assure you that each woman’s story is as powerful as the last.
Evaristo has explained that she doesn’t judge her characters, portraying each of them as their own person who makes their own choices, and perhaps it isn’t out place to judge whether they are good or bad (although Winsome makes some questionable decisions). There are no secrets in this novel, each character lays themselves completely bare earning each of them the respect they deserve.
“Hattie saw that neither of her children liked being coloured and she didn’t know what to do about it”
Who is my favourite character? I’ve asked myself this question so many times and I keep changing my answer. Dominque’s psychologically abusive relationship was heart-breaking, Carole’s strength to fight for her right to education was inspiring and Morgan’s self-acceptance as they discover their gender identity sheds a light on the struggles of identifying as non-binary. Yet I also love Yazz’s passionate outbursts as she recognises she is part of the “Swipe-Like-Chat-Invite-Fuck Generation” where “the older generation has RUINED EVERYTHING and her generation is dooooooooomed”. But ultimately I think it is Penelope that brings the whole book together and gives the novel a sense of joy.
I’d 10/10 recommend this book, its informative, full of sadness, joy and each individual’s story is thought provoking and powerful. Different sexualities, races, generations, classes and family backgrounds all come together to realistically portray a world that isn’t often explored in literature. I would love to see this novel become part of the curriculum in the future due to its huge breadth of topics which could generate so many interesting discussions in a classroom. Teaching about diversity and acceptance, these 12 short stories fit together like a jigsaw to create this incredible novel. An absolute must read.