Summary and book reviews of Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

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

Book Summary

"Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible." ―Booker Prize citation

From one of Britain's most celebrated writers of color, Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women. Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize, Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of post-Brexit Britain, as well as looking back to the legacy of Britain's colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London's funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley's former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole's mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter's lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Of the various characters in Girl, Woman, Other, which did you relate to the most and why? Consider why the author chose to start the novel with Amma, Yazz, and Dominique's stories. Who is being othered in the novel? Provide examples from the text to support your answers. Share what the title means to you. What experiences have you had that made you feel a sense of otherness?
  2. It is believed that the last Amazon of Dahomey, a woman named Nawi, died in 1979 at the age of 100. What is the significance of the play and what does it reveal about Amma? Of the twelve women, who do you think represents Nawi in the novel? Talk about the lives and occupations of the female characters. How do they evolve over the course of the story? What events ...
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    Booker Prize
    2019

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It’s refreshing to read a book that encompasses such a variety of human perspectives and flaws but that still unequivocally centers blackness, non-male genders and queer sexualities, as well as non-traditional relationships and family arrangements. While Evaristo’s novel entertains many points of view, it doesn’t stumble into moral vagueness or the idea that all opinions and experiences are the same. Instead, it chooses motion over stagnation, self-awareness over denial. It insists on pushing through discomfort and moving forward...continued

Full Review (1018 words).

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(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Evaristo has a gift for appraising the lives of her characters with sympathy and grace while gently skewering some of their pretensions...There comes a point in this narrative where you’d rather settle into the characters you’ve met than be introduced to still more new ones. You begin to feel you are always between terminals at a very large airport, your clothes and toiletries in a little wheelie suitcase behind you. It’s possible to admire this deeply humane novel while permitting your enthusiasm to remain under control.

Washington Post
Together, all these women present a cross-section of Britain that feels godlike in its scope and insight...But just as crucial to this novel’s triumph is Evaristo’s proprietary style, a long-breath, free-verse structure that sends her phrases cascading down the page. She’s formulated a literary mode somewhere between prose and poetry that enhances the rhythms of speech and narrative. It’s that rare experimental technique that sounds like a sophisticated affectation but in her hands feels instantly accommodating, entirely natural.

The Guardian (UK)
Girl, Woman, Other, the intermingling stories of generations of black British women told in a gloriously rich and readable free verse, will surely be seen as a landmark in British fiction.

The New Statesman (UK)
In Girl, Woman, Other, Evaristo adopts an even bigger canvas, with a sparkling new novel of interconnected stories ... In Evaristo's eighth book she continues to expand and enhance our literary canon. If you want to understand modern day Britain, this is the writer to read.

The Financial Times (UK)
Brims with vitality ... The form [Evaristo] chooses here is breezily dismissive of convention. The flow of this prose-poetry hybrid feels absolutely right, with the pace and layout of words matched to the lilt and intonation of the characters' voices ... She captures the shared experience that make us, as she puts it in her dedication, 'members of the human family.'

The Sunday Times (UK)
The voices of black women come to the fore in a swirl of interrelated stories that cover the past century of British life. Wide-ranging, witty and wise, it's a book that does new things with the novel form.

Elle (UK)
This masterful novel is a choral love song to black womanhood.

Vogue
Evaristo is known for narratives that weave through time and place with crackling originality. Girl, Woman, Other is no exception.

Stylist (UK)
Ambitious, flowing and all-encompassing, [Evaristo] jumps from life to life weaving together personal tales and voices in an offbeat narrative that'll leave your mind in an invigorated whirl. This is an exceptional book that unites poetry, social history, women's voices and beyond. You have to order it right now in fact.

Red (UK)
Spanning a century and following the intertwined lives of twelve people, this is a paean to what it means to be black, British and female. Evaristo's prose hums with life as characters seem to step off the page fully formed. At turns funny and sad, tender and true, this book deserves to win awards.

Metro (UK)
Marvelous ... [The characters] sing off the page as they negotiate their own way of being through the prisms of race and gender. In prose that defies many of the rules of punctuation, and feels all the more immediate for it ... Summons up a limitless canvas of black female experience that's by turns funny, acutely observed and heart-snagging. Terrific.

The Observer (UK)
A magnificent read from a writer with a gift for humanity.

Refinery29 (UK)
Beautiful, hilarious and moving homage to what it means to be black and British. Girl, Woman, Other celebrates the rich variety of black women across generations.

Author Blurb Ali Smith, author of Spring
Bernardine Evaristo can take any story from any time and turn it into something vibrating with life.

Author Blurb Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie
There is an astonishing uniqueness to Bernardine Evaristo's writing, but especially showcased in Girl, Woman, Other. How she can speak through twelve different people and give them each such distinct and vibrant voices is astonishing. I loved it. So much.

Author Blurb Warsan Shire, author of Teaching My Grandmother How to Give Birth
Hilarious, heart-breaking, and honest. Generations of women and the people they have loved and unloved - the complexities of race, sex, gender, politics, friendship, love, fear and regret. The complications of success, the difficulties of intimacy. I truly haven't enjoyed reading a book in so long.

Author Blurb Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People
Bernardine Evaristo's books are always exciting, always subversive, a reminder of the boundless possibilities of literature and the great worth in reaching for them. Her body of work is incredible.

Author Blurb Nikesh Shukla, author and editor of The Good Immigrant
Once again, Bernardine Evaristo reminds us she is one of Britain's best writers, an iconic and unique voice, filled with warmth, subtly and humanity. Girl, Woman, Other is an exceptional work, presenting an alternative history of Britain and a dissection of modern Britain that is witty, exhilarating and wise.

Author Blurb Jacob Ross, author of The Bone Readers
Bernardine Evaristo is without doubt one of the most important voices in contemporary British literature. Her phenomenal writing gets at the heart of what affects and concerns us most in these times.

Author Blurb Philippa Perry, author of How To Be a Parent
Girl, Woman, Other is brilliant. I feel like a ghost walking in and out and in again on different people's lives, different others. Some I feel close to, some I feel I must have met and some are so 'other' that I have to stretch myself to see them. Mind expanding.

Author Blurb Elif Shafak, author of Three Daughters of Eve
Bernardine Evaristo is one of those writers who should be read by everyone, everywhere. Her tales marry down-to-earth characters with engrossing storylines about the UK today.

Author Blurb Inua Ellams, author of The Half God of Rainfall
Bernardine Evaristo is the most daring, ambitious, imaginative and innovative of writers, and Girl, Woman, Other is a fantastic novel that takes fiction and black women's stories into new directions.

Author Blurb Margaret Busby, editor of Daughters of Africa
For a fresh and inspiring take on writing about the African diaspora, there's nothing like a new book by Bernardine Evaristo. Somehow she does it every time!

Reader Reviews

Anna Rowe

Worth Reading
I thought this book was quite an accomplishment. It is a novel but reads more like a collection of twelve stories, each about an individual woman who is directly or indirectly connected to the others. It is the depth and development of these ...   Read More
Anna Rowe

For Those Who Love Character
I thought this book was quite an accomplishment. It is a novel but reads more like a collection of twelve stories, each about an individual woman who is directly or indirectly connected to the others. It is the depth and development of these ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Bernardine Evaristo's Booker Prize Win

Bernardine EvaristoIn October of 2019, Bernardine Evaristo took home the Booker Prize in a win that garnered special attention for multiple reasons. Specifically, Evaristo was the first Black woman to win the prize, and she didn't have the win all to herself; the judges split it between Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other and Margaret Atwood for The Testaments.

This isn't the first time a Booker Prize has been shared by two winners. Judges gave the award to both Nadine Gordimer (for The Conservationist) and Stanley Middleton (for Holiday) in 1974, and also to Michael Ondaatje (for The English Patient) along with Barry Unsworth (for Sacred Hunger) in 1992. However, following the Ondaatje/Unsworth win, the Booker Prize Foundation implemented a rule requiring ...

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