And so my journey through the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction begins! Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo is an absolute gem of a novel. It was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2019 and has been rightly praised. This is an enjoyable, educational and important novel for everyone, not just for literary critics.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: May 2019
‘Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.’ – Goodreads
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo follows the lives of twelve (mostly) Black voices, from Amma to Dominique, from Megan/Morgan to Grace. Evaristo has a talent for capturing the likeness of people from an all manner of generations, walks of life and places. Evaristo even miraculously managed to pluck a thought directly from my brain through the voice of Yazz:
The older generation has RUINED EVERYTHING and her generation is dooooooomed unless they wrest intellectual control from their elders.
Every story in the novel is engaging and interesting, and Evaristo weaves the character’s lives together seamlessly. As a white woman, I found the novel to be familiar yet unfamiliar, comfortable yet uncomfortable. Whilst I could relate to the character’s experiences in terms of gender (and there’s also a chapter based in my hometown!), I could not in other ways. It does not shy away from describing the micro-aggression’s that Black women face:
She wants to tell them it’s like being personally attacked by the media that women clutch their bags nervously when they pass her in the street or she sits next to them on the bus.
Although a white person cannot fully relate to these experiences, it is important that we recognize our privilege and make an effort to understand them. It is especially important that non-Black people listen to these experiences in order to change and call each other out. As well as this, the novel is beautifully written. Evaristo’s style is incredibly captivating and has an ‘un-put-downable’ quality to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Be a person with knowledge not just opinions.
Ultimately, the strength in this book is the sheer number of minority voices that Evaristo writes about. This is an incredibly important novel that I recommend everyone to read.