I had never heard of Bernadine Evaristo until I learned she shared the Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood. Boy am I glad I took notice.
Evaristo’s new novel Girl, Woman, Other is a multi-voiced work, featuring twelve loosely and tightly connected Black British women—from Amma, a lesbian playwright whose story opens the book and who serves as the nucleus to the other voices, to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England. There’s also a jaded public school teacher, an investment banker, a house cleaner, and a non-binary social influencer.
All of the characters have authentic voices, all of their stories have wider societal and cultural resonance. It’s a searing portrait of contemporary Britain as well as the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
Most of you know me as liking fairly traditional, linear narrative. But the structure of this book, moving quickly from one character to another in a style that falls somewhere between prose and poetry, totally worked for me. I was able to move seamlessly between the stories and follow the natural cadence of the novel.
At times I got a bit lost as to the connections between the women, but I generally picked up the thread again. And in a way it didn’t matter. What did matter is all these women ARE connected by virtue of being something of “the other” in British society—certainly in race but also in sexuality, education, and class.
I’m finding myself drawn to these stories lately, to immigrants and people who are marginalized by race, poverty, physical differences, lack of education, etc. I guess it’s the times. Stories of privileged people feel slight and frivolous.
So do read Bernadine Evaristo’s new book. It’ll take you somewhere else, to a place I feel it’s really important for all of us to go.