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Excerpt from Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Girl, Woman, Other

A Novel

by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine  Evaristo X
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine  Evaristo
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  • Paperback:
    Nov 2019, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

BookBrowse Note: This excerpt has been reproduced as close to the layout of the print version of Girl, Woman, Other as BookBrowse's format allows (our page width is slightly narrower than that of the printed book). For those who might look at this and think that the layout is too "experimental" for their tastes, our reviewer offers the following comment:

"...If Evaristo's novel is experimental, though, it's been rigorously tested and is well out of the trial phase. This book is genuinely readable in the purest sense. Characters' speech, ruminations and backstories blend together naturally, proceeding in a version of the off-the-cuff style many of us write in daily as we text or tweet messages that roll out by their own logic, making complete sense to us even if they don't follow traditional formatting. The author has harnessed the easy expressiveness of this style and applied it to a polished and complex narrative..."

Chapter One

Amma



1

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

she feels the sun begin to rise, the air still breezy before the city clogs up with heat and fumes

a violinist plays something suitably uplifting further along the promenade

Amma's play, The Last Amazon of Dahomey, opens at the National tonight

*

she thinks back to when she started out in theatre

when she and her running mate, Dominique, developed a reputation for heckling shows that offended their political sensibilities

their powerfully trained actors' voices projected from the back of the stalls before they made a quick getaway

they believed in protest that was public, disruptive and downright annoying to those at the other end of it

she remembers pouring a pint of beer over the head of a director whose play featured semi-naked black women running around on stage behaving like idiots

before doing a runner into the backstreets of Hammersmith howling



Amma then spent decades on the fringe, a renegade lobbing hand grenades at the establishment that excluded her

until the mainstream began to absorb what was once radical and she found herself hopeful of joining it

which only happened when the first female artistic director assumed the helm of the National three years ago

after so long hearing a polite no from her predecessors, she received a phone call just after breakfast one Monday morning when her life stretched emptily ahead with only online television dramas to look forward to

love the script, must do it, will you also direct it for us? I know it's short notice, but are you free for coffee this week at all?



Amma takes a sip of her Americano with its customary kick-starter extra shot in it as she approaches the Brutalist grey arts complex ahead

at least they try to enliven the bunker-like concrete with neon

light displays these days and the venue has a reputation for being progressive rather than traditionalist

years ago she expected to be evicted as soon as she dared walk through its doors, a time when people really did wear their smartest clothes to go to the theatre

and looked down their noses at those not in the proper attire

she wants people to bring their curiosity to her plays, doesn't give a damn what they wear, has her own sod-you style, anyway, which has evolved, it's true, away from the clichéd denim dungarees, Che Guevara beret, PLO scarf and ever-present badge of two interlocked female symbols (talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve, girl)

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Excerpted from Girl, Woman, Other copyright © 2019 by Bernardine Evaristo. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Black Cat, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

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