Winner of The Booker Prize for 2019, shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction Bernardine Evaristo has taken the literary world by storm with her novel Girl, Woman, Other. I am always a bit wary of such literary sensations that are constantly in your face. I always wonder if a book is popular because it is simply a brilliant novel worth your time and money or whether it is popular because of a great marketing campaign. However, with the case of Bernardine Evaristo it is the former. The hype surrounding Girl, Woman, Other is completely justified.
Girl, Woman, Other, as the titles suggests, is a celebration of womanhood in all its various and glorious forms. Women have so often been put in a mould by society. Whether real or literary we all know it’s true, and Bernardine Evaristo is here to completely shatter this mould and present us with some refreshing characters that are a perfect reflection of being a woman…and let me tell you this, being a human, for in a lot of books female characters don’t feel human at all. The book is divided into different narratives that focus on 12 women. There is a connection between all of them and they all come nicely together which is a very satisfying reading experience. Each woman gets a chapter where we learn about her story, her experiences as a woman, whether as a child, student, professional, mother, grandmother, all the different stages of life are experienced and depicted throughout the book.
Every woman reads like a real human being and it was amazing to see such a big representation of minorities on the page. Some of the characters were homosexual, others were non-binary, there were black characters and white characters, characters who come from different countries…you get my drift. This doesn’t happen often in a book and as an immigrant it was absolutely wonderful to see a part of myself in the book. However, what was even more impressive and important, at least to me, was the fact that the characters were simply human. There is a great enjoyment in reading every story but that is not to say that all 12 women are likeable. Some are petty, others are spiteful; they have obsessions and bad sides just like all of us. Because of the great representation of such diverse characters I expected that all of the women will be portrayed in a positive light and it was such a nice surprise that Evaristo has decided to simply portray humanity and womanhood in its various shapes.
Apart from shining a new light on how women could and should be portrayed in literature Girl, Woman, Other also does not shy away from discussing social issues. Everyday sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, social classes, and the history of these issues are portrayed in the book. Sometimes it is done subtly and sometimes loudly depending on the character. The book is a great eye-opener to the many challenges that women face but especially women who come from a minority background. This is a book about women and I strongly urge you all to read it but it is also a book about black women which is even better because I, for one, have not read enough books that focus on black female characters.
All in all, Girl, Woman, Other is a book that you should simply read. There is so much that we can all learn from it and good literature is not just a form of entertainment. It is about expanding our mindsets and our understanding of the world and Bernardine Evaristo has written a book that will both delight and educate you.