Title: Girl, Woman, Other
Writer: Bernardine Evaristo
Publishing House: Hamish Hamilton
Date of Publication: May 2nd 2019
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Amma is walking along the promenade if the waterway that bisects her city, a few early morning barges cruise slowly by, to her left is the nautical-themes 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.’’
Twelve women. Twelve stories, twelve stops in an exciting, moving journey. Twelve hearts, twelve minds, twelve souls. Twelve confessions, twelve testimonies. One masterpiece.
Evaristo has created a difficult route for us. Through London – vividly portrayed- through Theatre, Education and the Arts, through the upper and middle classes, meeting the workers and the bohemians and the privileged, the ‘’old’’ and the ‘young’’, the hopeful and the fearful. She beautifully communicates the complex themes of race, gender and sexuality, equality and independence, justice and equal opportunities, patriarchy and revolution. It is a rough journey through the decades that shaped our modern world and our convictions and perceptions. The fight for civil rights, the threat of Aids, the Thatcherian politics, the chaos of Brexit and the impossible chasm it has caused.
The stories of the twelve women and their voices reach far beyond the issues of sexual liberation and emancipation. Evaristo offers us a completely honest view of organizations and political parties. She comments on the gang problem and the babymothers of British society, on the hurdles in Education with its centuries-old convictions, the curse of lesson plans, the death of all creativity and freedom (and I speak from 14 years of experience). Her writing is flowing, raw and honest. She doesn’t present saints but women who are good, women who are bad and women who are everything in between.
Through the African myths of warrior women, Amma’s free spirit, Yazz’s wonderful musings that reminded me of my university years, Shirley’s resilience, Dominique’s enlightenment, Evaristo shows that we are not victims and those who would like to see us as such (and treat us even worse…) better keep THAT in mind. On a literary level, she gave me the golden opportunity to explore the work of writers that were unknown to me. I was in the middle of reading a number of exciting books at the same time, but my mind wanted to exclusively dedicate itself to this modern masterpiece.
In 2020, Bernardine Evaristo became the first woman of colour and the first Black British woman to get a number 1 in the UK paperback fiction charts. In 2019, she became the first black woman and first Black British author to win the Booker prize. BUT. Girl, Woman, Other should have been the sole winner. Why didn’t this happen? I think we all know why. Who can forget BBCs abominable ‘’Margaret Atwood and another author’’?
‘’I’m not a victim. Don’t ever treat me like a victim, my mother didn’t raise me to be a victim.’’
*In other news, Goodreads Search ‘’function’’ doesn’t seem to be able to ‘’find’ the novel by its title. I guess it’s easier and more popular in the Amazon sphere of abhorrence for The Girl with the Golden whothefuckcareswhatitisreally and its sequels to show up…*