Girl, Woman, Other

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

I was keen to read this as a joint winner of the Booker Prize along with The Testaments (I'm a huge Atwood fan), however I don't feel I'm clever enough to do a review of this amazing book justice.

Beautifully crafted, expertly written, this is original and breathtakingly good.

5* +++++++

Thank you to NetGalley and to the Publisher for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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Alright, everybody, it’s time to get literary!

I’ve been dying to read Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other ever since it came to my attention thanks to the Booker Prize. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s a book steeped in women’s experience and the experience of black and LGBTQ+ people in the UK, and it’s written in a refreshing, offbeat way, and it has a whole roster of awesome characters. Sign me up!

First thoughts?

I got my hands on this over the Christmas period. And boy, oh, boy, was it worth it. This is a vision of a modern Britain- and one that we don’t see all that much in literature- full of black voices from across the spectrum. As we hop from one person to another, we learn about the lived experiences of women from different backgrounds, different sexualities, different roots, families, jobs… it goes on.

Falling in love

Remarkably, this doesn’t create the chaos that you’d think it would. Instead, the voices of Evaristo’s characters come together to form a rich and fascinating tapestry that I couldn’t tear myself away from. Her style of writing is idiosyncatic; it’s written very much in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. You get access to her characters’ thoughts as they pour out of their heads, giving us access either to a specific moment in time, or to a whole life story: it’s the perfect way of getting as much information across in as little time as possible. Though some paragraphs don’t quite click, the overall effect is does. It’s oddly lulling; by the end, I’d forgotten that this wasn’t the way every book was written.

Though you get to know some characters less well than you’d like, there’s enough here to make you fall in love with them. I particularly loved the way Evaristo leaped from character to character, working her way through a variety of people connected by friendship, family and love. There’s Morgan, the non-binary person whose great-grandmother is trying to find her long-lost daughter. There’s Amma, the lesbian playwright whose daughter, Jazz, is trying to find her voice as a ‘woke’ and politically engaged student.

Overall?

This is an epic book, both in scale and ambition. It compasses two hundred years of black history, a diorama of voices and serves as a perfect snapshot of modern life. It gives a voice to people who are definitely underrepresented in the literary canon and it’s an absorbing read to boot. Believe the hype.
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Received this book with thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Hamish Hamilton. I really wanted to like this book for various reasons including it having won the Booker Prize, being written by an author who grew up near to where I grew up in SE London and from a similar background to me.

However, I really couldn't get into it and think that it's one of those stories where the blurb is much better than the actual story. Maybe I'm old fashioned when it comes to writing but the tenses jumped around way too much as did the grammar, with missing full stops and so on, which is a bugbear of mine.

I felt like the story was written in such a way that I couldn't tell whether it was based on a true story but even so there wasn't enough detail in there for it to be true.

It would market well to the LGBT community and is based on a love story between two women of colour though I don't that it does the people of colour community any good, especially the section of the book where a character is ranting on about how 'black' always has a bad representation such as in blackmail when they start to mention about how they don't even wear black underwear I had to stop.

It is interesting seeing the amount of 5* reviews though I guess that's what sets us all apart as reviews. Just wasn't for me.

....I've noticed a reference to 12 characters and I may have read only a few of these so may look on.  The grammar still makes the book tough to perservere with.  I might check out the Margaret Atwood option to see how that compares.
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Loved it!

Each of the characters is carefully crafted, with their own distinct outlines in what otherwise is a blur of different people. I just adored the connections between the characters; their lives intertwined in the way which we all have but are usually unaware.
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A beautiful book celebrating the lives of black women across the UK over the last 100 years. The stories entwine and are cleverly woven together.
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Believe all of the amazing things that you have been hearing about this book.  

The way that all of the stories interlink is just breathtaking.
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What an incredible book ! I am not surprised at all that this won the Man Booker Prize. 

I've never read a book that spans so many characters and Evaristo manages to do it so effortlessly. All the characters get their moment, and despite only having a chapter or so dedicated to them their different personalities and stories feel so real and authentic it's surprising this isn't non-fiction! Their stories interweave and interlink until the end where it all comes together in a beautiful final two chapters.

It was so good I could read it again. I recommend to anyone who enjoys reading about life stories, family dynamics and women.
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This is different to anything I have read before. It is almost a collection of short stories, about women but the stories are interlaced (very clever).  I will be recommending this book to Book Club as it’s ripe for discussions and debates.
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Outstanding and utterly original, this book examines every facet of what it is to be a black woman in Britain - and oh, how glorious it is. I didn't start out by feeling like that, however. Never have I been so put off by an opening chapter only to fall so completely head over heels in love with the rest of the narrative. The problem was that initially I found the lack of punctation difficult to navigate. I’ve read books like this before, ones making statements about how they are not going to be constrained by form. It’s going to worthy and self-conscious, I thought, a feeling compounded by the fact that the first character that Bernardine Evaristo visits is Amma - who was my least favourite character. I kept the faith though and carried on, and as soon as I arrived in the next chapter, I was won over. I didn’t even notice the lack of punctuation then because the prose flowed like a poem.

In some ways, this a book that should not work; aside from the punctuation, it is all told. Bernardine Evaristo brings us a series of talking heads who report what has happened to them rather than plunging us into scenes. Writers are often instructed to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ because so few writers can tell well. Bernardine Evaristo is a supremo at telling. This combined with the way she weaves her story back and forth through time are just a few of the reasons that this is a truly original novel, a real literary great.

The characters get better and better - each has a distinct voice which doesn’t so much as lift off the page as pole-vaults off it. Through them, we get to experience every facet of human emotion - the harrowing aftermath of rape, the way a mother refuses to let her child drown under the weight of mental health problems, an enthusiastic young teacher ground down after years of the relentless ungratefulness of her pupils who she constantly tries to mould better futures for. But this is no depressing novel, it is uplifting, beautiful and the humour is abundant and effortless. A wonderful moment was Hattie’s failure to grasp her grandchild’s non-binary status, calling her friends ‘those non binding people’ yet she has huge love for her grandchild and her friends nonetheless.

I read this book on my Kindle, but will be buying the paperback as soon as it comes out. It should be required reading in schools, but perhaps that might take some of the joy out of it. I can certainly see it spawning a thousand English Literature degree theses. A book that deserves to be pushed into the hands of everyone, it feels like its pages contain the whole world.
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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo is a beautiful, hopeful book. I loved the intertwined stories and consider this a worthy winner of the Booker Prize.
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This is a beautiful, poetic, piece of writing that gives the reader a glimpse of a Britain that most of us hardly ever experience and is not often written about. Sweeping in its breadth and ambition, this novel is a celebration of the lives of black women, in all their multiplicity, throughout the United Kingdom and the last one hundred years.

This is a story of black Britain, its past, its present and its future, told through the inter-connected, interlocking, overlapping lives of twelve women. A panoramic novel in which we hear the voices, and learn the stories, of a wide range of women that all differ, one from another, in their ages, vocations, social backgrounds, locations, and sexuality. We hear the stories of their struggles to build their lives in this, predominately white, predominately male country, stories of mothers and daughters, children and adults, stories that are imbued with love, joy and imagination.

These stories are told in four lengthy chapters that each deal with three of the twelve women. The first of these women is Amma a socialist, lesbian, playwright. Amma has worked on the fringes of theatre for many years, never willing to make the compromises necessary to ensure a successful mainstream career. But now she finds that society has moved in her direction, and she has become mainstream, and her latest radical feminist musical “The Last Amazon of Dahomey” is opening at the National Theatre. From Amma’s story we are drawn into those of the other eleven characters. They are all very different, some of them are flawed and complicated characters, but in almost all their stories there is, as well as the struggle, empathy, love, gentleness, belonging and forgiveness. 


The final chapter shows us the after party following the premiere of Amma’s musical. It brings together some of the twelve women and several of the many subsidiary characters that we have met along the way. The novel ends with a surprising and rather touching coda that brings together two more of the women whose stories we have encountered earlier in the novel.
As male, pale and decidedly stale I am guessing that I am not seen as being part of the target demographic for this novel. To say that this novel, with the diversity of its characters and the range of circumstances they find themselves dealing with, is wide-ranging would be something of an understatement. It covers aspects of life in Britain that I recognise but rather more about which I know next to nothing. I found this book a fascinating, compelling read and by the time I had finished it I felt that it had taught me a lot that was new to me about the Britain in which I live. Highly recommended. 

I would like to express my thanks to NetGalley Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books UK for making a free download of this book available to me.
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What a genius Bernardine Evaristo is! Absolutely loved this book and would recommend to anyone. If you havent read it yet what are you waiting for?
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Since this book won the Booker Prize i had very high expectations for it. 
Girl, Woman, Other blew all of those expectations out of the water. Its complex, moving and beautifully written. 
Pick this book up immediately if you haven't already.
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I can see why this is a Booker prize winner,beautifully rhythmic writing that flows well. It is almost a series of essays /short stories about a seemingly disparate group of twelve characters but all is cleverly woven together.
An engrossing enjoyable read.
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In just 352 pages and through the lens of 12 variously-interlinked characters (11 black women and 1 non-binary), Bernadine Evaristo creates a rich tapestry of Britain using prose that is half poetry, half verse (described by the author herself as ‘fusion fiction’) and unfailingly striking. The characters, diverse in age, background and experience, are grouped into sets of three with close links existing between those within a set and looser associations eventually uniting the full cast in a way that is utterly pleasing.

Themes of race, class, privilege, sexuality and gender are currents that underlie the overall narrative but the characters never feel like simple vessels through which Evaristo delivers her personal views. I love the way in which the generational gaps between characters prompts you to think about the way in which ideologies change, evolve or indeed remain the same over time. This book is an invitation to consider, question and challenge and the characters are vibrant and full of life, sometimes endearing, sometimes frustrating and captivatingly flawed.

Most impressively for me, as someone who reads a lot of split-narrative fiction, is the way in which Evaristo has managed to create twelve unique voices (that actually feel distinct from one another) and to make us feel invested in twelve individuals stories within blocks of just forty or so pages. There were definitely parts I became more invested in than others, but there was not a single perspective that I felt myself inclined to skim through.

GWO paints a portrait of Britain we don’t often see in fiction and I loved every second of it.
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I approached this book with a little trepidation. Booker prize winners are not always my thing. Too often self consciously literary with characters that are hard to relate to and non existent plots, I have often been disappointed in them. But I had nothing to fear. This book is amazing. I loved it and it's perhaps gone in to my top ten books of all time. The narrative is unconventional. It would perhaps be best described as linked short stories (think Olive, Again) rather than a novel. Here we get twelve characters, mostly women of colour, and a piercing glimpse into their lives. They are a diverse set of women: young, old, straight, non-binary, gay, educated, rich, poor. What is remarkable is that whether you like them or not (and they are portrayed with all of their faults) you do end up empathising with them. As with all the best characters you feel as if you actually know them, as though their lives are carrying on independently of the fiction in which they were created. This is a fabulous book. I can't recommend it highly enough. Thanks to Penguin and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I knew I wanted to read this book when I heard the author read an extract on The Big Scottish Book Club. I could have listened to her talk for hours and was immediately pulled into the story. I was delighted to be approved for a copy on #NetGalley and the book deserves to be a join winner of the Man Booker Prize. The novel is structured in a version of stream-of-consciousness which took a few pages to get used to. The story flows so well and I loved the little connections and links between the twelve women whose stories the book explores. The book is also a very rich and detailed look into Black History in Britain, something I’ve not had any real exposure to. I loved the attention to detail. I loved the way the book explores the relationship between the 12 women, with their family and friends as well as the world’s they inhabit. The book is celebration of women of different ages and sexuality and different periods in time. I thought it was amazing.
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Believe the hype. It’s a wonderful book, enjoyable even for those who might be put off by its slightly experimental style. I raced through it.
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I suppose no one needs another review of the Booker Prize winning Girl,Woman, Other, but if you need a nudge to read it, let me confirm that it is absolutely as brilliant as everyone is saying. Girl, Woman, Other is a truly special book, and for once I didn't race through it. Even more unusually for me, I read other books between the three sections in not only to stretch it out longer, but so that I could be sure I was appreciating it properly.

The novel is narrated by a host of characters, mostly women, mostly non white, as well as non binary characters, living in England today. Through the eyes of these women we see how gender, sexuality, race and class intersect, as the lives of the characters become involved and related in often surprising ways, set against the backdrop of Brexit being constantly discussed, negotiated, and meaning worse and worse things for real people's lives. The book is particularly strong on how liberal or radical movements change over time and from generation to generation, and with respect to the part of the story about non binary characters, how infighting among communities who are seeking the same end goal brings the whole movement back. I also really enjoyed the accounts of 'radical' feminist and lesbian movements in the 1980s, 90s and beyond, and how the daughter of one of the characters who is celebrated and respected is embarrassed and believes her feminism to be much more advanced.

It feels like Evarnesto is building block by block with each character, until you are left with an incredible, wide ranging story that unites different, outcast or othered voices to give a human, moving and galvanising account of lives that deserve to be seen, considered and heard instead of being continuously margianalised. When I finished the book I realised that I hadn't been transported to another world but instead that I was finally seeing the world around me much more clearly.
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Joint winner of the Booker, and deservedly so. A book of many voices, with intertwined stories. Uncomfortable to read in places (but I think that says more about me and my privilege?) but I’m so glad I did.
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