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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    Nov 2019, 464 pages

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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.

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...

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  • award image

    Booker Prize
    2019

Reviews

Media Reviews

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!

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