On Books

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

41081373._sy475_Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo won this year’s Booker Prize along with Margaret Atwood’s The Testament.

 

Sometimes award winners can be a bit esoteric for my tastes, but Girl, Woman, Other proved to be an enjoyable and satisfying  read. The structure does have its challenges. The novel has twelve different points of view, which means there’s no slacking for the reader. Full attention is required. Nevertheless, it’s an easy read.  Just enough connecting thread is woven through each of the narratives to give the sense that Evaristo is purposefully taking her reader on a journey.

Girl, Woman, Other provides a window in to a world which Micha Frazer-Carroll of the Guardian observed: ” … is a Britain less often depicted in fiction.”

Thank goodness that is changing. And thank-you to Evaristo for leading the charge.

Each voice is distinctive, each story unique. Some are more likeable than others but all are presented sympathetically. I did have my favourites, though. Particularly Yazz, the daughter of queer parents, Amma and Roland. Yazz is  opinionated, passionate, loves her parents, and a force to be reckoned with.

    Yazz
sits on the seat chosen by Mum in the middle of the stalls, one of the best in the house, although she’d rather be hidden away at the back in case the play is another embarrassment
she’s tied her amazingly wild, energetic, strong and voluminous afro back because people sitting behind her in venues complain they can’t see the stage
when her afro’d compatriots accuse people of racism or micro aggressions for this very reason, Yazz asks them how’d they feel if an unruly topiary hedge blocked their view at a stage concert? (p41)

Everything about this novel, from the structure, the punctuation, to each point of view, challenges patriarchy, racism, stereotypes. But I don’t think it does this stridently. Not to my ear.  The challenges come simply in the telling of each of the stories. They speak for themselves. Together they speak more loudly. And they tell the story of life, that we’re all here, on this planet, together, trying to work out the business of life.

Bernadine Evaristo is an accomplished author with eight previous books to her credit although, this is the first of her novels that I’ve read. I trusted her from the opening sentence.   I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

You can read the New York Times review here,  

and The Financial Times on the controversial decision to award this year’s Booker prize jointly, here

Girl, Woman, Other (2019) Bernadine Evaristo, Penguin Books
Opening sentence:
Amma
is walking along the promenade of the waterway that bisects her city, a few early morning barges cruise slowly by
to her left is the nautical -themed footbridge with its deck-like walkway and sailing mast pylons
to her right is the bend in the river as it heads east past Waterloo Bridge towards the dome of St Paul’s …

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