It’s taken a few weeks to find the words to describe how powerful this book is. And even so I probably won’t do it full justice.
Girl, Woman, Other written by Bernadine Evaristo, together with The Testaments by Margaret Attwood, won the Booker Prize in 2019.
This book, set mostly in Britain contains twelve different stories in various timelines about a group of diverse women, most of whom are black. The reader is taken on a journey with each of the women and we learn about them and their lives with an almost brutal honesty. This book is a social commentary of what it means to be black and a woman in modern Britain and predictably it’s not always pretty.
There’s Grace in 1905 an orphan, Winsome in 1953, a migrant from Barbados, Amma is 1980 who sets up a feminist theatre. Then there’s Carole, the high flyer in 2008 who turns her back on her Nigerian heritage, and Morgan, once known as Megan in 2017 navigating her way to independence.
These are almost stand-alone short stories except that there is a connection which comes together with an incredible last chapter via Penelope who bears the brunt of family secrets in a calamitous way.
The characters grow on the reader quickly because the writing is succinct, poetic yet direct. The absence of regular punctuation such as full stops and capital letters to start sentences doesn’t call attention to itself as the reader gets very used to the easy to read style within a few short pages.
Amma misses her daughter now she’s away at university
not the spiteful snake that slithers out of her tongue to hurt her mother, because in Yazz’s world young people are the only ones with feelings
but she misses the Yazz who stomps about the place
who rushes in as if a hurricane’s just blown into her room –
A word of warning: The connection between the many characters can be confusing and a map would have helped on occasion to prompt the memory. But if you read the book quickly, it shouldn’t worry you too much. And it is very easy to read. But my advice is to take it slowly and saviour it as each word earns its place.
This one is an important book to read, enlightening us all about the history of the black women’s experience in Britain.
I simply loved it.