I’m still trying to catch up on posts leftover from my magnificent Christmas reading binge.
Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel by Bernardine Evaristo is the final one. It is certainly not the least though. In fact, it very nearly overtook The Yield as my favourite book for 2019.
What stopped it from doing so?
I have lived with and loved The Yield for many months now. It’s wonderfulness has been a part of me for a much longer period of time than Girl, Woman, Other. It also has the advantage of being home grown. Poppy’s very special Indigenous language dictionary is another stand out feature that I think about often.
But this is about Girl, Woman, Other and it definitely deserves it’s own time in the sun to shine.
The twelve interconnected stories about growing up, living, working and loving in London by mostly black British women of various ages, had me hooked from the very first voice, Amma. Via these women, Evaristo talks about feminism, double standards, gender, racism, sexism and ageism.
The twelve chapters read like twelve separate portraits, with Evaristo revelling in the characterisations of each and every one. Her loose-flowing poetic prose was full of vitality and complexities. I was engrossed by each and every story, not wanting them to end, but then getting caught up in the next biography and wondering how they might interconnect.
The diversity and otherness suggested by the title, was explored on many levels. Part of my enjoyment came from reading such a fresh perspective and experiencing a reality different to my own. Note to self, read more diversely in 2020 (most of my 2019 reading was Australian and Indigenous).
Evaristo, herself, said:
I wanted to put presence into absence. I was very frustrated that black British women weren’t visible in literature. I whittled it down to 12 characters – I wanted them to span from a teenager to someone in their 90s, and see their trajectory from birth, though not linear. There are many ways in which otherness can be interpreted in the novel – the women are othered in so many ways and sometimes by each other. I wanted it to be identified as a novel about women as well.
Finally, I will tackle the co-winning of the Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. I have read both and enjoyed both, but Girl, Woman, Other is by far the richer, more interesting and certainly the more original of the two. Labelling a book ‘the best novel of the year’, obviously leaves things very open to individual interpretation, but to my mind, Girl, Woman, Other stands head and shoulders above any of the others shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize and deserved to win in it’s own right.
- Joint Winner of the Booker Prize 2019
- Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2019
- Named one of Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2019