Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
“Her morning mantra in the bathroom mirror I am highly presentable, likeable, clubbable, relatable, promotable and successful”
As I sit down to write the review for this highly acclaimed book, “Girl, Woman, Other” by Berardine Evaristo, I will admit I feel ambivalent about it. We can sit and debate over whether it really is a prize worthy book or whether Evaristo should have won the Booker Prize 2019 outright instead of jointly sharing it with Margaret Atwood for The Testament.
But that’s not the discussion here. Instead I'm going to talk about the book. It’s about 12 black women (in fact one of who is Trans) living in a version of Britain rarely seen or heard of, elegantly going back and forth between the past and present. The novel is written in an unconventional writing structure of poetic prose which was a bit hard for me to grasp initially, but I came to understand the importance of this writing style as I progressed through the book.
It might as well be known for having 12 short stories about 12 different women, each of different ages, each of different statures, their lives converged together in the vibrant city of London. The stories of each woman are stories you and I may have heard of, witnessed and even gone through in our lives.
The book starts by talking about Amma, a black play director who is preparing for the opening of her play “The Last Amazon of Dahomey”. It talks about her struggle as a young black actress who later opens up her own theatre company. Chapter 1 also introduces Amma’s daughter Yazz – a character I loved and enjoyed reading about the most! Yazz has recently started college where she makes friends and is quite taken aback by their take on the world, on privilege and other socio-economic stances which defy her expectations on how the world really works. Amma’s best friend Dominique is also quite an interesting character with a whirlwind of a story as well.
The book progresses to talk about Carole, a victim of child rape, who grows up to become an investment banker. Nimmi - her mother who is unaware of her daughter’s dark past and has a hard time accepting her new lifestyle. Later on we’re also introduced to LaTrisha – Carole’s friend in school, Shirley King – her teacher, Winsome – Shirley’s mother, Penelope – her colleague, Megan/Morgan a trans character, Hattie – her great grandmother and Grace – Hattie’s mother.
As a female, I was able to relate to most of the stories. The character I couldn’t relate to at all and even disliked was Winsome. She is a mother who has a secret affair with her daughter’s husband. I couldn’t relate to Megan/Morgan either though that chapter gave me a deeper insight into the Trans community which I was unaware of.
The book addresses both the good and the bad versions of feminism. It talks about equality; it includes portrayals of characters like Nzinga who could well be called a “Feminazi”. It talks about privilege and highlights how it is mostly about context and circumstances.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is willing to openly gain a better understanding on feminism and how much it has changed since it became a movement. This book is a great way to start a conversation especially in our country amongst friends, families and peers on why feminism remains relevant even more so today. While reading this book it occurred to me how India and it's citizens have missed out on such a huge movement. We still have so much to fight for and voice about when it comes to becoming equals with those who've always had an upper hand.
I am glad I happened to have started reading this book during Black History Month and it somehow perfectly spilled over into the month we choose to celebrate Women.
Overall, I feel a lot more educated and even reignited to discuss the topic of feminism with those around me but as it was a hard and even enervating read for me personally because of its distinguished writing style. I would rate this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks.