A review of Girl, Woman, Other. By Bernadine Evaristo.
Loved, loved, loved this book. I honestly didn’t want to finish it. I wanted to meet more characters – more fascinating women, each with a different experience, a different point of view, a different past and different future waiting for them. If it was a film, I’d be looking out for the sequel.
Like a much more interesting and diverse Sex and the City, most of my friends can probably pick a character they feel their most like. I spotted some of my friends, colleagues and relatives in there. And maybe a little of myself too….but I’m not saying who.
Starting with the vibrant London art scene, we meet Ama who luxuriated in the funky 80s theatre world and is now on the eve of real, conventional fame. We also meet her lifelong friend and business partner, who takes us on a harrowing journey through love and domestic abuse. Ama’s daughter, Yazz, so achingly cool you can barely read what she has to say. We meet a successful black financier, who you think must have it all, until you understand her childhood trauma that she did well to survive, and meet her school teacher, Shirley. Shirley is disillusioned, and misunderstood, and secretly betrayed by her husband and her mother. There is honestly not one single character who doesn’t catch you by surprise. Gender is explored through the eyes of one of my favourite characters, who explores the world online and finds loyalty and love. And neither last nor least, the black female farmer. Perhaps one of the most inspiring of all. Discerning. Strong. And more modern than anyone really knows. I LOVED her.
This is a brave book.
This is a brave book. Not for the reason that it shares stories of black people, non-binary people, gay people…many people who aren’t often represented in literature…but because it unapologetically presents each character with no judgement, no “moral of the story” and no agenda. The homophobe is just as fascinating as the adulterer. The racist is just as believable as the bully. In that way, it’s like life. Complicated, uncomfortable and never black and white. That’s one of the lessons I’ve found most pertinent over the last few months of furthering my educating on matters of race. In my experience it’s rare to see overt racism, sexism, homophobia or aggressive prejudice. (Thankfully.) But what is extremely common, is assumption, ignorance and unconscious prejudice. Discussion is the most important thing we can commit to if we’re going to learn together as a society. Books like this, encourage that. It holds up a mirror, it shines light into nooks and crannies and it never tells you what’s right and wrong. That’s our job, as human beings, to work out for ourselves.
Discussion is the most important thing we can commit to.
For more reviews of this unique and amazing book……cast your eyes over some of these and listen to this fascinating podcast, which my fabulous friend and ally recommended to me.