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Girl, Woman, Other

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2019)
Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

453 pages, Hardcover

First published May 2, 2019

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About the author

Bernardine Evaristo

59 books4,364 followers
Bernardine Evaristo is the Anglo-Nigerian award-winning author of several books of fiction and verse fiction that explore aspects of the African diaspora: past, present, real, imagined. Her novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize in 2019. Her writing also spans short fiction, reviews, essays, drama and writing for BBC radio. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, London, and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. She was made an MBE in 2009. As a literary activist for inclusion Bernardine has founded a number of successful initiatives, including Spread the Word writer development agency (1995-ongoing); the Complete Works mentoring scheme for poets of colour (2007-2017) and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2012-ongoing).

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5 stars
104,672 (50%)
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72,529 (34%)
3 stars
24,412 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 19,993 reviews
Profile Image for leynes.
1,103 reviews2,954 followers
March 25, 2022
Okay, folks, I had some time to think about it ... so here goes nothing. The more I reminisce about this particular book the more I cannot shake the feeling that this ... simply ain't it. I'm sorry. If this is the best what Britain has to offer at the moment, the situation is more grave than I initially thought. Uff. Where do we even start here?

The book has no overarching story. Instead, each chapter of the book follows the life of one of the 12 characters (mostly Black women) as they negotiate the world. Although each character has their own chapter set across a particular time, their lives intertwine in numerous ways – from friends and relatives to chance acquaintances.

So, chapter one starts with Amma, a middle-aged, politically engaged lesbian theatre-maker whose latest play is about to be staged at the National Theatre. Next is her daughter Yazz, a super annoying self-righteous undergraduate who hangs with a group of like-minded pals who agree that: "…the older generation has RUINED EVERYTHING and her generation is doomed / unless they wrest intellectual control from their elders / sooner rather than later." (EXCUSE ME?)

And then there's Dominique, Amma's great friend and long-time collaborator, who falls for a controlling radical feminist and is lured into moving to America. The following three chapters continue the same pattern with occasional stories overlapping to a greater or lesser extent with those earlier in the book.

For a novel with so many different characters it is astounding that I absolutely cared about none of them. I disliked all of them. All of these women are full of themselves, downright annoying and simply haven't gotten their priorities straight. If there's one thing one must take away from Evaristo's novel, it's that all a woman wants in life is being in a relationship. All of these characters are so preoccupied with their relationships and sex, it's fucking ridiculous. Like, I'm so confused??? Why do you write 12 different character portraits and then mostly focus on the sexual side of things, like, that's so boring??? Who even cares???

There comes a point in this narrative where you’d rather hang around the characters you’ve met than be introduced to still more new ones. The narrative needed to develop and deepen – to flesh out what has gone before, to draw the reader into the world the characters inhabit. Clearly, Evaristo didn't live up to what she set out to do, and so everything remained on a surface level. Instead of building the story and developing the protagonists and their relationships, we are given yet another batch of brief biographies, all of which are okay in isolation but they are, quite frankly, underwhelming in the context as a the whole.

The lively introductory profiles fail to evolve into complex character studies, which leads to a growing sense of superficiality. Evaristo does attempt to add drama and three-dimensionality by way of chapter-connecting plot devices, but the set-ups are too obvious and the pay-off fails to appear. Especially towards the end, Girl, Woman, Other becomes monotonous and very predictable.

I know that this form – character vignettes that make up a whole novel – is incredibly hard to pull off, but it is definitely possible, and so I want to give you some recommendations of author's who have done it so much better. Gloria Naylor is basically the queen of this form and I can highly recommend Bailey's Café or The Women of Brewster Place. Both narratives are incredibly well written and deal with the experiences, emotional traumas and the persistence of Black women in the US. Another writer who never fails to amaze me when it comes to writing about the human condition, is the French playwright Yasmina Reza, her novel Heureux les heureux is nothing short of amazing, and a cynical, insolent and sometimes hilarious dissection of the human soul. Even Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing and Jean Toomer's Cane, albeit they have their flaws, have done it so much better.

What all of the novels above have in common is the fact that they managed to unfold multiple variations in which the reader clearly distinguishes the voice of each protagonist. These are novels in which a dichotomy between main and side characters doesn't exist. In Girl, Woman, Other, everything seems to center around the character of Amma. That doesn't make any sense. And above all, it makes the narrative repetitive and predictable. The novels above showcase a net of complexity and interweavement that Girl, Woman, Other can only dream about.

Girl, Woman, Other leaves you frustrated. We are denied the chance of getting to know the characters better. Furthermore, Evaristo's novel shoulders some heavy themes — racism, the immigrant experience, the increasingly fluid borders of gender and sexuality, the patriarchy — and it often feels overburdened by them.

I couldn't shake the feeling that all of Evaristo's characters were reduced to mouthpieces for a popular debate, or the identity that they were supposed to represent. We get the artsy Anglo-African playwright, the hipster questioning transgender identities; and then a separatist lesbian thrown in the mix. The characters throw phrases around, such as "gender is a social construct", "femininity and masculinity are society's inventions", "in any case, ageing is nothing to be ashamed of" – and that's all nice and swell, but where's the depth to that?

I'm sorry, but the writing felt way too artificial for me. None of these characters were real. Amma and her best friend have seemingly profound conversations about "reconfiguring feminism" ... when they literally have just snorted four lines of coke and drank two bottles of red wine. Like, are you kidding me?? How stupid do you think I am?? Who's supposed to be buying this?

On top of that, some of the passages are just truly horrific displays of bad writing, in which Evaristo truly rivals Rupi Kaur, e.g. "she tried boys a couple of times / they enjoyed it / she endured it".

There were passages of such bad writing in here – "Yazz doesn’t know what to say, when did Court read Roxane Gay – who’s amaaaaazing? / was this a student outwitting the master? / #whitegirltrumpsblackgirl" – that I really started loosing my faith in humanity, and not just contemporary British writing.

When a character was raped it was referred to as having "had her virginity stolen" ... UMM, HOW ABOUT WE DON'T CALL IT THAT WHEN A MINOR WAS LITERALLY RAPED BY HER FATHER IN LAW??? When a character had to prostitute herself to ensure her daughter's education, she said: "she was now a business woman / this was her first transaction". I don't know about you but I find these choices rather appalling and cringey, to say the least. #notafan #dontusehastagsinliterature #fortheloveofgod

Evaristo truly did her young characters dirty. I have rarely seen such an inauthentic portrayal of our current culture and how young people navigate in it. The woke self-righteousness of present-day Yazz (who is describing herself as "part ’90s Goth, part post-hip hop, part slutty ho, part alien."), and her multicultural "uni squad, the Unfuckwithables" (don’t get me started on that one), is a little too one the nose to be even remotely believable. Her entire character is a joke.

But even the older characters aren't more likeable due to their unhealthy obsession with sex and being in a relationship. At one point, a MOTHER'S REACTION to seeing her daughter's boyfriend for the FIRST TIME is that "she wanted to run her hands all over him, massage his balls, feel him harden at her touch"???? What the fuck is wrong with you??? I'm sorry. Have you ever looked at a person for the first time in your life and thought to yourself "DAMN, I REALLY WANNA MASSAGE HIS BALLS"???? I am confusion.

And as another reviewer pointed out, the characters overcome horrific traumas such as (gang) rape, severe postpartum depression and drug addiction shockingly easily. Just by the power of their will. It's ridiculous. There is absolutely no depth or believability to their journey of healing and finding their will to live again. For example, in the case of severe drug addiction, the character simply stays at home for a week, and then is magically cured. Excuse me?

So, at the end of the day, I don't know why I rated this even two stars. Maybe because I found a few of the explorations of the intersections between gender and race, and across the generations (e.g. "I haven’t suffered, not really, my mother and grandmother suffered because they lost their loved ones and their homeland, whereas my suffering is mainly in my head") quite interesting and engaging ... and even though the epilogue runs the risk of feeling gimicky, it has some quality to it and drives home the overarching point Evaristo was trying to make - that we're in this together – so yeah, it's not ALL bad. But it mostly is. #sorrynotsorry
Profile Image for Katia N.
585 reviews661 followers
October 15, 2019
Update: This predictably has won the Booker 2019 (jointly). And if it is the best book of the shortlist, I am very happy about my decision not to spend time reading any others shortlisted this year.

Original review:

Unfortunately I ended up disappointed by this book, though I really wanted to like it. In fact, it is the only book from this year Booker I’ve decided to read. (I’ve read two others before they were long listed. ) It seems this book is widely admired by others. But it has fallen quite short of my personal expectations.

The book is devoted to the lives, experiences and ideas of black women in Britain. It is constructed as 12 short stories, superficially interconnected by the author. Each story follows the life of a particular character with “grand finale” when the majority of the characters met. There is also an epilogue with the moving, but predictable twist. The book is celebration of success of these woman, which is really admirable, fantastic intention.

But I seriously struggled with the execution of this. First, any individual story reads like a long read article from “The guardian”. It is sketchy, aspirational, it might be a good journalism. But I am not sure it is a good literature. Sometimes the article would become almost feminist manifesto:

“We should celebrate with that many more women are reconfiguring feminism and that grassroots activism is spreading like wildfire and millions of women are waking up to the possibility of taking ownership of our world as fully-entitled human being how can we argue with that?”

Wonderful, but is it how two lesbian 50 years old friends talk to each other after two bottles of red wine and 4 lines of coke? I do not know. But I doubt.

The characters are used as mouthpieces for statements like that: “Her mother was unthinkingly repeating patterns of oppression based on gender”

“The idea of reinventing the farm for the people who have reinvented themselves. “

When I want to read an article I go to the website or buy a newspaper. I want something different from a book. At minimum I want a complex, human characters. I want depth. Here, the diversity prevail over complexity. The breadth prevails over the depth.

All the stories are stories of success of the self made women. But sometimes I found it very hard to believe. The characters overcome horrific traumas such as rape, severe post tantrum depression, drug addiction. How do they do it? Just by the power of their will. In case of drug addiction, staying at home and sweating for a week cured it all. It sounds very naive at best. It is very good to hear such stories. But it should be at least some discussion that it was a rare case of luck. Without it, the whole narrative becomes simply cartoonish. And reading 12 articles under one cover becomes a bit tedious.

A lot of true, but tired bits of public discourse are thrown into general mixture. For example, I do not need a character to repeat that a Muslim perpetrator of atrocities would be called a terrorist while the white would be called a madman. Sadly, I heard this one many times before. Or another character would tell me that “ Gender is a social construct” and “femininity and masculinity are society inventions. “ I read my “Guardian”. But if someone does not, I do not think she/he would be converted by seeing it first as a soundbite here.

The book is a bit better in the stories of the older characters. It is still quite didactic, but less rhetorical. That feels like a relief. The epilogue involving two oldest characters of 80 and 94 years old is the best part of the whole book.

In spite of all rhetoric, the aspirations of these very diverse crowd appear to be relatively middle class - the house, security, to keep a farm inside the family for generations, certain amount of prejudice towards the others. It is probably a good thing. But does it make a good literature? I am not convinced.

While reading I could not but compare this book with two different recent novels of the similar topicality: Zadie Smith’s “Swing time” and “The Old Drift” by Namwali Serpell. The former deals with mixed raced friends growing up in London, the latter is structured in very similar way - 9 connected stories of predominantly female characters in Zambia. I found both of these books less than perfect but more successful and effective as fiction. These might affect my general opinion and rating of this book.

This is an admirable spirit of a book, feel good manifesto, but it is bit too simplistic as a work of literary fiction.

2.5 stars rounded down.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 118 books157k followers
December 29, 2019
Magnificent novel of such grand scope and ambition. This is a novel about 12 women but it is also a sweeping history of the black British experience. The attention to detail, the structure, the syntax, it’s all brilliant and moving and truly represents what fiction at its finest.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,777 reviews1,262 followers
December 30, 2021
Now shortlisted for the prestigious international 2021 Dublin Literary Award

Winner (jointly) of the 2019 Booker Prize - perhaps appropriately given its closing words

this is about being

A book I have read and loved three times so I was delighted to be present for its win and to get these photos



When hearing the winner announcement I immediately thought of a passage very early in the book when it says

Amma then spent decades on the fringe, a renegade lobbing hand grenades at the establishment that excluded her

until the mainstream began to absorb what was once radical and she found herself hopeful of joining it"

At the Foyles/New Statesman Booker Winner reading on the Thursday of the award I asked the author if she had also reflected on that passage when the announcement was made and how it applied to her own situation.

Her answer was: that she had in fact been reflecting on it for some time (including when she was completing the book), but crucially that when she first started writing the book she did not think it was true for her at all - she did not expect any positive reception from the mainstream as she did not think it had moved far enough or the book would be seen as topical enough. However the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements shifted the ground significantly in her view and meant that the mainstream was ready for a black woman writing about black women.


The book is written as a series of twelve chapters, each featuring a named character.

These characters are Black (although in one case not aware), British (although in one case no longer thinking of themselves as such) and Female (although in one case no longer identifying as such)

They are however of different age, sexuality and sexual identity, formative experience, family unit structure (both parental unit and their own family unit), ethnic make-up, ancestral origin, shade, region, occupation, cultural background, class, and degree of activism (as well as journey along the activist/conventional spectrum over time).

This is a novel of polyphony, polygenetics, polygenderism.

But crucially it was not one that at any time I felt was a forced attempt to represent diversity but more of a natural attempt to examine the core shared identity of the characters alongside their differences and their journey; and more crucially an attempt to give visibility to black British women in literature.

The author has described the style she chose to adopt here as “fusion fiction” – a fluid form of prose poetry, with a dearth of conventional sentences with capital letter openings and full stop endings

I found this style very effective – form matching content, style matching theme. Evaristo has always been someone who challenges convention in art (as captured in Amma – the most autobiographical of the characters). The fluidity of the prose enables her to range within the characters thoughts and across time, and between stories and characters.

The characters are grouped in four sets of three – with clear and immediate links between the characters in each set, but less obvious and emerging links between the characters in different sets.

The first set has Amma (a provocative theatre director), her daughter Yazz (studying literature at the UEA) and Dominique (now based in the US but at Amma’s original partner in disrupting theatrical culture).

The second Carole (who pulled herself from difficult origins, via a Maths degree at Oxford to a banking job in the City), Bummi (her mother) and La Tisha (her one time schoolfriend now working in a supermarket as a young Mum of three children by three absent fathers).

The third has Shirley (a friend of Amma’s since school, now veteran teacher whose greatest project as a teacher was Carole), Shirley’s mother Winsome (now retired in Barbados) and Penelope (a now retired colleague of Shirley’s who resented the increasing multi-culturalism of their school for many years, while secretly struggling with finding out on her 16th birthday she was a foundling).

The last has non-binary Megan/Morgan (they are a social media influencer and activist), Hattie (their great-grandmother, a 90-something Northumberland farmer) and Grace (Hattie’s mother).

Thee are only the main characters though and Evaristo also brings in the backstories of their parents, their closest friends and even the parents of their closest friends.

She has said in an interview ”At one point I thought maybe I could have one hundred protagonists. Toni Morrison has a quote: ‘Try to think the unthinkable’. That’s unthinkable. One hundred black women characters? How can I do that? I need a more poetic form. Now there are only twelve main characters.” and while adopting the poetic form the novel still retains strong elements of her centurion ambitions.

And the backstories are important I believe in what the author is trying to achieve. From the same interview: ”Even though I don’t have a protagonist who’s a young teenager, a lot of the characters went through that stage. So you have a sense of who they were as children, how they became adults, and then how they are as mothers. I’m deeply interested in how we become the people we are. Coming from a radical feminist alternative community in my 20s, and then seeing these people in their 40s and 50s, I’ve seen people become extremely, almost, conservative, establishment, having lost all the free-spiritedness, oppositionality and rebelliousness of their younger years. To me that’s fascinating. When I meet young people today and they are a certain way, I think: ‘You don’t know who you’re going to be.’ That feeds into the fiction. How do we parent our children? What are our ambitions for our children? How does that link to how we were raised? How does gender play out?”

Amma is perhaps also the most central character - and it is in the after-party on the opening night of her first play at the National Theatre “The Last Amazon of Dahomey”, that the various characters and their stories converge and interact (Carole as her partner is a sponsor of the National, Morgan invited to review the play by tweet for example).

A final epilogue reveals a final link via an examination of hybridity of origins and finishes with the quote with which I open my review.

I found this a strong novel – there is polemic and challenge, but also warmth, humour and self-awareness.

Carol’s idea of bed-time reading includes

“also monitoring the international news that affects market conditions, the weather conditions that affect crops, the terrorism that destabilizes countries, the elections that effect trading agreements, the natural disasters that can wipe out whole industries”

which could simply not be closer to my own work-related reading, but she also comments

“and if it isn’t related to work, it’s not worth reading”

which could simply not be further from my own view of literature – and a book like this is why wider reading is worthwhile.

At the after-party we are told:

a five-star review has already been uploaded online from one usually savage pit-bull of a critic who’s been uncharacteristically gushing: astonishing, moving, controversial, original

Well as my profile picture shows I am more Golden Retriever (incidentally one such Humperdinck features as Penelope’s loyal companion – “always there for her, always eagle for a cuddle, who’ll listen to her for hours without interruption .. greets her as soon as she steps in the door”) than savage pit-bull of a critic (although I have my moments) but five stars from me.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,605 reviews24.8k followers
November 20, 2019
After hearing so much about this novel, a joint winner of the Booker prize, I was incredibly keen to read this. Bernardine Evaristo writes vibrantly of a contemporary Britain that is rarely seen, challenging, giving us a glimpse of its past, present and future, with a seamless feminist narrative that goes back and forth in time, an unconventional structure, poetic prose, and a disregard of the normal conventions of punctuation. She presents us with a broad and diverse spectrum of black women's voices, all distinct, from differing backgrounds, ages, roots, class, occupations, families, from many parts of the country and sexuality in all its forms. It speaks of race, living and surviving in a white dominant culture and its implications and repercussions, the broad church of thinking when it comes to the definition of black and the questions of identity. I found it to be a profoundly moving, beautifully written and imaginative read, sensitive, compassionate, so human and ingenious in its portrayal and focus on the women, with their obvious and not so obvious connections with each other. Brilliant and so deserving of the accolades it is receiving. Many thanks to Penguin UK for a copy of the book.
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
August 1, 2020
Polyphonic choir of women, singing a song of life in dissonances and harmonies!

This may well be my favourite book of 2019, curing a stress-related Reader's Block with instant effect.

Sharing is caring, and Bernardine Evaristo shares life experiences that stretch a century back in time and move towards our immediate, contemporary world. She cares for her characters, and that results in the reader caring too.

I found myself identifying with a bitter school teacher, with a strong creative woman subdued by narcissistic abuse, with a teenager rebelling against successful parents, with a wallflower moving on the fringes of fashionable circles, with a needy playwright, with a gender-fluid person of female biological origin, even with an old farmer and her wish to pass on the farm to a family member. I identified with girls trying to heal from traumatic teenage experiences and with women who never learned how to find their own voices in the loud orchestra of patriarchy.

Even though one of the main themes is being a person of colour in a world of white supremacy (open or hidden, depending on situation), and even though I belong to the entitled, privileged group of people who have a choice whether racism is a topic to be bothered with or not (as opposed to those who have to live with the issue whether they like it or not as it is imposed on them by a dominant culture), I strongly identified with all these characters' problems and issues with racism, - because their stories are told with a loving, caring voice that humanises the pain and injustice.

Some people (me included) claim that the power of writing fiction instead of fact books on relevant questions in society lies in the fact that fiction builds a relationship between the reader and the message, and that this relationship leads to empathy and a true wish for change.

No other book I have read recently proves that point as well as this wonderfully creative account of women in the world.

Pure Literature! Straight to the heart!
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,153 reviews1,691 followers
December 1, 2022

si presero per mano
dove si sentivano più al sicuro nel farlo
in mezzo al nulla.

Bernardine Evaristo adotta una punteggiatura che prevede un uso minimo dei punti fermi: virgole, interrogativi, qualche esclamativo, parentesi, due punti, perfino il punto e virgola ma di punti se ne contano più o meno al massimo uno al termine di ogni capitolo. Ora, pur essendo il punto il mio segno d’interpunzione preferito, non ne ho sentito la minima mancanza leggendo queste torrenziali cinquecentoventi pagine, grazie a un uso sapiente dell’accapo che trasforma, almeno a prima vista, le pagine in fiotti di versi sciolti.

Torrenziali cinquecentoventi pagine nelle quali sarebbe un errore credere che verremo messi al corrente delle storie di dodici persone e basta e cioè quelle che regalano il titolo ai capitoli. Accanto a loro, tutte donne – o meglio, ragazze, donne, altro – un universo ben popolato di parenti, amici, amanti, figli, mariti, colleghi, vicini…
E forse se non arrivo alla quinta stella un po’ è proprio per questo motivo: troppa gente, troppi nomi, ho finito col fare confusione: per esempio ho creduto a lungo che Slim fosse un nero del Sudafrica, invece è venuto fuori che era un afroamericano, probabilmente della Georgia.

E forse invece alla quinta stella non arrivo per quell’ottimismo che a me è suonato eccessivo, per quell’abuso di spirito “edificante” che a me un pochino ha sciupato la lettura.
D’altra parte è difficile condividere questo genere di ottimismo provenendo dal paese dei family day, dove quello che la Evaristo racconta qui occorre regolamentarlo per legge (nel secondo decennio del terzo millennio), e quando qualcuno presenta un disegno di legge sul tema, tutti gli altri fanno in modo di boicottarlo. La scusa è che non è mai il momento: prima bisogna pensare all’economia, al famigerato pil, è sempre il momento giusto per il pil, anche se poi anche quello gira ai minimi termini – in questo paese non è mai il momento giusto per i diritti, umani o sociali che siano.

Sgombrato il campo dalle due note moderatamente negative – che è più che possibile siano da imputare a mio difetto - Ragazza, donna, altro è una lettura piacevolissima, sorprendente, divertente, toccante, seducente, un romanzo sbalorditivo, commovente, provocatorio, originale, proprio come viene descritto da Roland lo spettacolo teatrale scritto e diretto da Amma, L’ultima amazzone del Dahomey, e Roland è critico e accademico e intellettuale blasonato, gay e donatore del seme col quale Amma genera la sua magnifica figlia Yazz, pièce che funge da collante alle dodici storie principali, occasione per fare incontrare e incrociare buona parte dei personaggi.
E che delizia, che vicinanza con tutta questa gente che non è mai io narrante, ma a condurci per mano è la più gentile e partecipe e spiritosa delle narratrici in terza persona.
E quindi io, come faccio a non mettere anche la quinta stella visto che sarei pronto a darne sei?

Sono donne lontane dall’orlo di una crisi di nervi, ragazze-donne-altro che si sono sentite dire
hai troppa personalità,
avere troppa personalità non sta bene, per le ragazze

e hanno lottato, autentiche riot grrrls – o forse adesso si scrive gurls? – sono cresciute, si sono formate, sono diventate amazzoni, lesbiche, lgbtqi+, prime e seconde, a volte terze generazioni di inglesi, madri scure e figlie oscure, nipoti e pronipoti di africani o caraibici o afroamericani, un’umanità nella tonalità del nero che Bernardine Evaristo canta, più ancora che raccontare, come se fosse una polifonia, un album dove ogni capitolo è una traccia, Twelve Way Street, per così dire. Un inno fluido e ibrido all’inclusione, contro il razzismo, un terremoto per il perbenismo e il conformismo, una sonora splendida pernacchia a bigotti, baciapile, bacchettoni, beghini, farisei, moralisti, ipocriti, puritani.

milioni di donne stanno scoprendo la possibilità di impadronirsi del mondo come esseri umani a pieno titolo,
come si fa a non essere d’accordo?

Tutte le opere sono di Ashley Seil Smith.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
October 22, 2019
Girl, Woman, Other started off so well for me. I absolutely adored the first triptych of stories, about two queer, creative women of color and the college-age daughter of one of them. I loved the characters and I loved the writing style, and I was excited to keep going. Eventually, though, the sameness of the tone and style began to frustrate me, and the stories began to feel a bit like checking off boxes: Here is the immigrant experience, here is the experience of a devotee of white feminism, here is a lecture-y tale of a nonbinary person, here are so, so many stories of mediocre marriages. I seriously considered DNFing at least once. But the chapter on the party was pretty fun, and the epilogue made me see that there were more connections among the characters than I'd realized. I considered giving this four stars, but ultimately it just wasn't a fully satisfying reading experience for me. I appreciate this novel's intentions and I'm happy it won the Booker; if you think it sounds interesting, I urge you to give it a try. I'm sad I can't join this book's many cheering fans, but I'm glad I tried it and I wish it the best out there in the world.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,118 reviews3,974 followers
February 22, 2020
it’s easy to forget that England is made up of many Englands

a cosy scratchy patchwork of connected stories
a polyphonic harmony of dissonant voices
a hymn, ancient and modern, to women of colour
a beautifully disorienting kaleidoscopic lens


we’re often told to check your privilege
I have a privileged life
it doesn’t always feel that way: I’ve known heartbreak, loss, and worries about work, money, and health
and I’m a woman in what is still rather more of a man’s world
but I have/had two parents who love/d me (though not each other), a good education, loyal friends, a loving husband, an interesting though not especially remunerative job, and a 25-year old I am immensely proud of
I’m white, straight, middle class, and live in a pretty country town, conveniently near London
and I read wonderful books like this

a downside is that geography and demographics mean my family, friends, and colleagues are predominantly white
the greatest ethnic diversity I experienced was at boarding school where ironically I was one of the least privileged, economically

but this isn’t about me

it’s about the characters that other authors squeeze into peripheral roles to add colour and diversity to their monotone tomes
Evaristo brings them front of stage and lets them shine

why I read this

* there is a non-binary gender (enby) character
* several GR friends wrote enticing reviews
* I want to diversify my reading
* it won the Booker prize (which somewhat contradicts the previous point)

I knew it was about British women of colour and wondered how relatable it would be
when my enby child gave me a copy I was additionally wary of its physical heft and minimal punctuation:
mixed voices with no quote marks and no full stops

about the book - no spoilers

Evaristo's fusion fiction looks disorientingly unstructured but it's like stepping into fast-flowing water:
immersive and startling and it took me to places I've only ever heard about

the four main chapters each contain three sections: one per person
the three in each chapter are directly connected but there are other looser ties to those in other chapters
you see people and events from different viewpoints and the truth is not clearcut
in the final chapter, most of them come together - literally

Image: West African Adinkra symbols - one at the top of each chapter for its main character (Source.)

these women’s lives washed over me
though me
as the chronology ebbed and flowed

the stories are told from the point of view of each character
they’re not narrated by them yet each has a distinct voice, dialect, and mood
and Evaristo achieves this with very little direct speech

big issues, light touch

the characters are mostly black women, from 19 to 93, and several are queer
but their struggles, successes, failures, relationships, and personalities are very varied
that subtly and unexpectedly opened the way for me to see similarities to me and my family without whitewashing or detracting from the issues women of colour invariably face, let alone those additionally disadvantaged by trauma, poverty, illness, or being gay

I feel as if I have really met them and find myself wondering how we could fit in each others lives

perhaps most fundamentally the stories are about identity and labels and finding one’s place and one’s people, about family lost and found, and about many permutations of relationships, whether helped or hindered by secrets
the importance of education is also a common thread
my second “review” here, lists some of the other themes

it is rich, enriching, eye-opening, poetic, fun, tragic, hopeful, and… yes, relatable

Booker Prize winner 2019

this should have won the Booker outright
as an Atwood fan who’s read this and The Testaments (see my review here) I think the judges were wrong
this was also one of Obama’s 19 best books of 2019: here

Image: collage at Penguin offices (Source.)


an atmosphere glutinous with tension

she became wrapped in the nightmare cocoon of [person]’s increasing paranoia

she started treating me like a disciple instead of a lover

Liverpool Street station with its inter-galactic glass and steel ceiling propped up by towering Corinthian columns

she’s a willing orchestral player in the cacophony of London’s busiest station… the anonymous convergence of commuters who are 99.9% genetically identical regardless of their visual packaging

stretch marks… looked like art and felt like Braille

two amphibian mounds taunted her with their nipple eyes

shedding layers of what had been imposed, hoping to reach the core of herself

why wear the burden of colour to hold you back? [passing]

a face that’s gone slack except for a mouth that holds all her misery like a drawstring tightened around a pouch

screen rights?

I'm sure someone will want the screen rights for this, and I'm not sure how I feel about that
I liked the 12 main sections, but suspect that rather than doing a 13-part series they'd want to interleave the stories more (as with Cloud Atlas, which I reviewed here), and I think that would be a shame.

trigger warning

there is a gang rape of a teenager that’s essential for the plot
Evaristo handles it perfectly: the life-changing horror is plain without any graphic details:
her body wasn’t her own
and she, who loved numbers, became innumerate

the victim wonders if she was partly to blame, but it’s totally clear that she is not

for more details about the characters, their connections, and the defining events in their lives, plus additional quotes, see my notes in a second “review” here
Profile Image for Adina ( A lot of catching up to do) .
827 reviews3,241 followers
September 6, 2020
Excellent novel, totally deserving the Booker Prize 2019. It was also surprisingly accessible comparing it to other winners that I've read.

The author put me in the shoes and mind of an amazing and varied selection of black women. While I did not like all of them, Alma the binding character being an example, I got to understand more about what it is/was to be a person of colour in this world and especially in the UK.

The interesting structure of the novel makes the writing poetic, it made me fly through the pages and could not stop reading although there wasn't too much mystery involved.

I wish I could write more but unfortunately these weeks I do not have the time. However, what I wrote I did with my heart because I really fell in love with this novel and can't wait to discover more of Evaristo's writing.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,518 reviews2,462 followers
October 15, 2019
Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 (together with The Testaments)
This panoramic, polyphonic novel reflects the lives of (mostly black) women in Britain, and its narrative approach could be described as literary docu-fiction: The 12 protagonists are all fictional, of different ages, with different cultural and social backgrounds and with different personalities, and the book provides its readers with the women's condensed life stories, packed with information, always keeping a certain observational distance, investigating their destinies like through the camera lense of a documentary filmmaker.

The book's characters cross paths in different ways, their individual stories employed to contrast female experiences, but also to parallel them and to highlight similarities and unifying factors. While it is apparent why this is an important book that also gives a voice to women who frequently get overlooked in the representation of contemporary Britain, I have to say that I never really warmed to this text: The story tends to get buried under the intention to include an extremely wide range of ideas about what it can mean to be a woman, and the author piles up characters and information when instead of even more broadness, a little more depth would have heightened the impact.

Evaristo shows women as social climbers, single mothers, sourvivors of abuse, victims of sexism and racism, lovers, wives, widows, daughters, grandmothers, VPs, teachers, cleaning women, artists, college students, school dropouts, immigrants and the children of immigrants, and in many other roles - but all of her characters are fighters, in their very own way. Usually, I love polyphonic novels - my favorite book of 2018 was There There, which also features 12 protagonists - but over long passages of Evaristo's effort, I was rather bored and felt disaffected: The relentlessly descriptive re-tellings of whole life stories plus the additive effect of the strict, enumerative structure feels exhausting (we are introduced to one character after the other, then there's an end where they meet and an epilogue), and the narrative intent, while important, always remains visible - this prose does not carry its readers away with emotion or urgency.

So all in all, the chapters of this novel are reminiscient of magazine articles about diverse women in Britain - pretty good magazine articles, but is this great literary fiction? The topic is certainly worthwhile, but this book did not convince me.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews16 followers
October 24, 2020
Be it gay, straight, single, married, transgender, vegan, feminist, young, old, eating, smoking, sleeping, sexing, drug using, radically living, liberal or conservative thinking, housecleaning, chef, voodoo queen, minorities, divine beings, social issues, gender and race issues, mother, daughter, goddess, dirt poor or not, friendships, lovers, thespian, educated or not, etc. etc...
these Black British women from different backgrounds had stories to tell.
A stream of consciousness feeling....
These interesting women, emphasize diversity, culture, and connectedness.
Great humanitarian and womanhood stories.

It was good..... really good....
Kept getting better from start to finish.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,963 reviews294k followers
January 6, 2021
Girl, Woman, Other is quite the achievement. To have so much going on, so many different characters and stories, all in the space of a less than 500-page novel, AND somehow manage to make it emotionally-engaging and not confusing... well, few authors could do it. If you enjoyed the style of books like Homegoing, there's a good chance you will like this one also.

Evaristo has taken on the challenge of portraying a vast array of experiences had by predominantly black women in Britain. Like Homegoing, each chapter in Girl, Woman, Other is told from the perspective of a new character, each one unique, each with their own distinct and complex personality, thoughts, flaws and troubles.

She brings in twelve different characters that come from all backgrounds, of all different ages, sexualities and social classes. She covers big and potentially upsetting topics like abuse, drug use, radicalism, gender and race, while simultaneously spending time on the small details that give each perspective and each character their own unique flavour. While hardships feature throughout, I do not think this is a particularly dark or depressing novel. In fact, there is something warm and uplifting about the exploration of all these different people.

They are all multifaceted, and not always heroes making the best decisions. Which, of course, makes it all the more interesting and realistic. Sometimes things are left unresolved, and this, too, feels like added realism.

As with any book like this-- as in, one that reads like a collection of short stories --there were perspectives that grabbed my attention more than others. I feel this can't be helped. Regardless, Evaristo made a strong impression on me and I'd love to read more of her work.
Profile Image for Susan Stuber.
194 reviews107 followers
October 28, 2019
I'm sorry, but life is simply too short for this sort of thing. No story, no structure, not even any punctuation, except for commas, and certainly, god forbid for being so straight-laced, no capital letters to mark the beginning of a sentence! No characters that one wants to get to know, no note-worthy prose, no clear conflict that might be resolved. Not a novel. What is it? One critic here said it was more like a collection of personal essays or feminist manifestos that might have been published, individually, in The Guardian. That just about says it all. I gave this book a good shot, but finally I even cancelled my purchase on Kindle, something I've never done before, because I was annoyed at having spent the SFR 12 for it. Guess that says it all, too.
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,641 followers
October 12, 2021
“... we don’t exist in a vacuum… we are all part of a continuum, repeat after me, the future is in the past and the past is in the present”

One of the things I missed most these last couple of years is listening to and watching my almost adult children perform with their respective music groups. Concert band, jazz band, choir. How I delighted in hearing all those wonderful, fresh voices and varied instruments come together to offer their audience a tuneful and often moving experience. Concert band and choir would always mix it up a bit with a few modern and some classical pieces. Jazz band was always a joy with its varying rhythms and improvisation. The bright, brassy sound of a trumpet here, now the smooth, honeyed tone of a saxophone there, the soft stroke of a snare drum. I’m not a musician by a long stretch, but it seems to me that the best improv occurs when not just one single player stands out. Rather, the entire group ties the whole song together by listening carefully to one another and ‘speaking’ to each other through their instruments. The individual interpretations of a composition blend into one melodious piece. Each person brings something very different to the success of the group, creating an effective and spirited performance.

This is exactly what Evaristo achieves in Girl, Woman, Other. She gathers a harmonious ensemble of characters with distinct voices, and demonstrates that they work best when combined together. She celebrates diversity, while at the same time demonstrating how connections are so very important. These connections may not always be wholly visible on the surface, but are there nevertheless. Often, there are invisible threads linking one to the other. There are multiple stories and characters here, most related to one another in some way. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, friends, lovers; persons of different sexual orientations and gender identities. I’m still learning a lot about the many terms; my teen daughter and I have frequent conversations. Thank goodness for her and the younger generation that help keep me informed. These stories are mostly about British black women, whether born in the country or having migrated there. Some of them are likeable, but not all of them. Every single one of them are believable, breathing, human beings. You may not be able to relate to all of their circumstances, but you come to understand them. This is as it should be if we would only take the time to listen.

“we should celebrate that many more women are reconfiguring feminism and that grassroots activism is spreading like wildfire and millions of women are waking up to the possibility of taking ownership of our world as fully-entitled human beings”

Yes, this book is also a feminist novel, in the best sense of the word. It builds women up without tearing men down. How else can we do this if we don’t all work together? Our fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and male friends all have to be part of the process for it to succeed. Bernardine Evaristo knows this. It’s not a new idea, but her presentation felt invigorating and refreshing. The structure and prose is unconventional, lyrical, beautiful, and moving. There is suffering in these stories, but they don’t drag the reader down into the depths of despair. Evaristo interjects bits of humor throughout. An episode when a young girl commits what she terms “Barbicide” with her Barbie dolls and scorns the decorative dolls on her shelf made me laugh. My sister and I could share similar tales of doll deviltry! She inserts magical threads of hope into her tapestry of characters. I was energized and fully content when I finished the last page. In fact, I’ve felt better these past few days after finishing this novel than I have in quite a long while. Thank you dearly for that gift, Ms. Evaristo.

“this is not about feeling something or about speaking words this is about being together.”
Profile Image for mwana .
371 reviews207 followers
September 21, 2022
be a person with knowledge not just opinions

A few weeks ago, I tried my hand at answering one of The Guardian's Book Q&A questions and one of the more memorable Qs was which book have you read do you wish you'd written? At the time, I answered predictably and generically but now I would like to emphatically change my answer because, THIS, this is the book I wish I'd written.

It is also the book I wish I'd read when it came out. A book I wish would never end. And literally the best book I've ever read. (Ok there's also The Night Circus and Less. We're just adding this one to the list.)

Words couldn't even begin to do justice to how amazing, well crafted and well written this book is. There is nothing I love more in a book. The prose is everything to me. How the language is wielded. It has to caress my mind and seduce my imagination, it has to teach me, tease me, taunt me, tire me. The words alone have to make me feel all the things. So imagine the jackpot when the words, the characters, the plot, ALL conspire to give me such a definitive reading experience.

I wondered about the writing because I'd seen people call it "unique". What could possibly be new under the sun in the year of our lord Beyoncé 2019? However, I was blown away by the style. The writing is free flowing, like a mixture of poetry and prose. Each sentence fragment like a verse. Vanity Fair's interview with the author revealed that she called it "fusion fiction".

The novel is poly-narrated following 12 narrators who are diverse in their upbringing, orientation, age, mentality. They are all inextricably linked to the "main" character Amma whose play is the thread that connects them all. Evaristo chose her to be the focal point because: "Amma was really interesting to me because she was absolutely the kind of character that hasn’t really appeared in fiction at all. I thought, (a) she is a queer woman, which is really kind of in-your-face for the reader. And she’s lived a long life in an alternative profession, in theater, so I thought she’d be a really good character."

It also manages to traverse as many aspects of life that you could possibly imagine. This successfully does what Black-ish thinks its doing. It covers everything from feminism, intersectionality, anarchism, anticapitalism, antibourgeoisness, Black history (from the Caribbean to India), gender identity, sexual orientation, generational battles, education, brexit, Thatcher's Britain, intellectualism, family, oral tradition, food, music et cetera.

It's so rich, so full, so daring, so vivacious, so bold. Not a single page was boring. Evaristo chose 12 characters because, "I wanted to create as many black British female protagonists as I could get away with. I decided that each woman would have her own section, but they are all kind of interdependent."
It was the most perfect allegory for how significantly different we—black people— all can be in our homogeneity.

Ordinarily I would add selected texts from my experience to show how this book made me feel so much with niche moments. How it made me laugh, cry, scream, yell, curse... But it happened so many times that I couldn't even begin to choose. Beyond that, I would also choose certain passages to show you how beautiful and mesmerizing it is. However, I definitely can't choose. On the Kindle copy, I have made 45 highlights. There too are the moments I copied and shared with my friends because I didn't want to lose my mind alone. If I added all of them I'm pretty sure I would be just sharing the whole book.

Evaristo is 61 years old and has already published 8 novels, winning the Man Booker with this one. It rankles me that I only heard of her after the Booker Prize win. She is also quite simply the most dynamic and remarkable woman I wish I knew growing up.

She's also really really fun.

Please read this book.

EXTRAS: Girl, Woman, Other to be adapted for TV

Author shares angry decade as part of ‘counter-cultural, black womanist’ community.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,051 followers
January 13, 2021
Twelve individual and distinctive voices all vibrating the same responsive web. Initially, I was a little dubious about the absence of punctuation as if it was nothing more than a gimmick but soon the expanses of white space on every page began to seem like open windows allowing in fresh air. I loved Evaristo's characters and the vitality and breezy skill with which she developed them. It seemed to me she was introducing brand new people into the archives of literature. It's a novel that celebrates diversity (and friendship and homebuilding). Her depiction of such a wide range of professions was also hugely impressive. We move through the entire social spectrum from a cleaner to banker.

It's always interesting at what point in a novel a critical reservation jars the pleasure of reading. This happened for me with a character called Penelope. She didn't interest me. I began to miss the other characters and thought maybe the novel's structure was in danger of collapsing. It's perhaps interesting that Penelope is the only white voice in the novel. Was it deliberate that Evaristo made her so much less interesting than all the other characters or did she succumb to an intimidating insecurity about appropriating a white voice? Her purpose in the novel becomes clear in the epilogue when she has a DNA test but only to demonstrate a truth we all already know and for me still didn't validate her inclusion.

But the real reason this wasn't quite a five star book for me is that the ending has more in common with a soap opera grand finale than a literary novel. All the characters - or perhaps most of them - are shepherded into a single space and we're treated to what felt like an evangelical explosion of happy clapping. I couldn't help thinking of Ali Smith's much more critical state of the nation seasonal quartet of books and how much more truth I unfortunately find in Smith's more pessimistic and angry take on modern Britain. I'm sure life in Britain is better now than it was ten years ago for virtually everyone who isn't a white affluent heterosexual male - or it would be if not for Covid. But Covid has taught us to admire people not by how many followers they have - celebrities have not on the whole come out of this year well especially with their narcissistic online attempts to remain in the public eye - but on how much they contribute to the welfare of the community. So this novel with its denouement celebrating, to some extent, the achievement of celebrity ended for me out of tune. That said, there's much to admire and love.
Profile Image for Doug.
1,989 reviews704 followers
October 5, 2021
2.5, rounded down.

This pushed a lot of negative buttons for me, so I am the first to admit my rating MIGHT be a case of 'It's probably NOT you, it's me'.' First of all, this is really a series of interconnected short stories, rather than a true 'novel', and I always have trouble digesting such.

Secondly - the majority of the 12 chapters prior to the final two of summation and 'connect-the-dot-ness' are not even stories... they are character profiles, a compilation of specific 'factoids' that accumulate, but rarely lead anywhere either interesting or revelatory.

Thirdly: it seems that the author had a template of boxes to tick off in order to include one of each various stereotypical 'type' - Ok, here we get the artsy Anglo-African playwright; here's the hipster questioning transgender; here's the separatist lesbian, etc.

Fourth: even though I read this in less than three days, by the end I had trouble even remembering who some of the characters were (Roland? Freddy? Lakshmi ferchrisakes?), so thank g-d, I could use the Kindle search feature to back track and figure out who people were.

Fifth: the prose is never more than pedestrian, and eschewing capitalization and punctuation seems to woefully be trying to make something 'avant garde' out of nothing special. Sixth: the concluding two chapters felt like jumping through hoops while twirling batons of fire and whistling 'God Save the Queen' in order to make everything 'fit'. I was chomping at the bit just to get it OVER with.
(Tip to Ms. Evaristo - after over 430 pages of excruciating minutiae about your main characters, it really is gilding the lily to introduce two totally superfluous characters in the final 30 pages, and then give us myriad trivial details of their lives... by that point, who the fuck CARES?!!)

Seventh: for something that is supposedly promoting a feminist/egalitarian agenda, there are some shockingly anti-Asian sentiments:
'Sarah's housemates were young professionals, half of whom were Asian
well-educated and well-spoken
so hardly Asian at all'

... and this choice bit of misandry:

'life's so much simpler for men, simply because women are so much more complicated than them'

EXCUSE me? Had a male author said the same thing, reversing the genders, he'd be pilloried. :-O!

All that said, I am quite confident that this WILL make the Booker shortlist, since it too 'ticks a box' for the judges, but g-d help us if this is declared the winner. Although after last year's debacle....

PS... and so, yes, OF COURSE, it semi-wins! My track record of my least liked books on the longlist prevailing (for 5 out of the 6 years I've been reading it) remains intact! (Yippee!) However, there is some discussion as to whether this co-won solely due to the fact judge Afua Hirsch, who happens to be Evaristo's longtime BFF, refused to go along with the consensus and give it to Atwood...
Profile Image for Henk.
851 reviews
February 14, 2020
Well deserved Booker prize 2019 winner!
Filled with humor while narrating the racially and sexual diverse female experience in Great Brittain

I am a major sucker for interconnected, contemporary stories (Cloud Atlas is my favourite book and David Mitchell my favourite writer) so Girl, Woman, Other is right up my alley from that perspective.

Bernardine Evaristo captures lives in a convincing, seemingly effortless manner, while following the twelve narrators who are loosely bound by a theater performance of one of them.

Besides racism, the crushing aspirations and dreams of family resting on many of the narrators, is a common theme. The contrast between metropolitan London life and country life (with one of the characters even voting UKIP) is an other. Unwanted sexual attention and pregnancies, and the impact this always has on women, and almost never men, also comes back a lot.

These themes could make this book heavy or tedious even, but Evaristo makes it a joyous, fun, sexual and racially diverse amalgamation of women’s lives.
And how much of literature, even today, can say that?
4.5 stars rounded up

Chapter one
First story is about Amma, a now successful theatre director who looks back at the trajectory she and Dominique, the manager of the Bush Woman Theatre Company, went through.
From anarchistic communes, the clubscene, to the opening night of her play at the National Theatre: she paints a London that feels far away but still has very sensuous charm. Her tale is sprinkled with some woman on woman one nightstands, musings on motherhood and lots of humor.

The humor is amped up when we follow Yazz, the daughter of Amma who is in her cynical late teenager years, I just can’t help it.
I loved her x-ray judgement on literally everyone (because that is what teenagers do, don’t they?) while she waits for the performance to start.
There is some love anxiety (If she can’t get a proper boyfriend at nineteen what hope is there for when she’s older?) and racism to her Somali friend, while her fabulously rich Egyptian friend, with ties to the regime of Mubarak and rural white Courtney triggers interesting musings on if privilege is tied to race, or to money.

Dominique her story, the good friend with whom Amma started her theatre company, focusses on a cultlike and all consuming love turned into an abbusive relationship. That it is a gay relationship between two black women makes it no less universal or claustrophobic.

Chapter two
Carole is a career women who looks back on her ascendency through Oxford to working in the City, while still not feeling at ease in her high class environment.
Her reflection on being at university, feeling voiceless at being confronted with privilege and wholly other lives, struck a chord:
nobody talked loudly about growing up in a council flat on a skyscraper estate with a single mother who worked as a cleaner
nobody talked loudly about never having gone on a single holiday, like ever
nobody talked loudly about never having been on a plane, seen a play or the sea, or eaten in a restaurant, with waiters

Also sexual abuse and disparity in power between the genders plays a role, before Carole will go to the play at the end of her working day at her bank.

Bummi is Carole’s mother and struggles with the fact that she wants her daughter to be succesful and traditional. She accuses Carole of losing her true Nigerian culture but also photocopies and frames her acceptance letter to Oxford three times throughout her house.
She herself has a master in mathematics in Nigeria but is relegated to cleaning work, and eventually owning a cleaning business, when she goes to England with her husband. Her life after her husband dies revolves around two relationships that give her much more background than you’d expect based on Caroles observations about her.

LaTisha, a good schoolfriend of Carole, tells about her time after leaving school, raising three children of three different men while working in a supermarket. Rather than a tearful tale it is also hopeful and about her route to self improvement and reconciliation with her family.

Chapter three
Shirley is the story of mrs King, the teacher who saw potential in Carole, and her time as first black teacher at her school. Her love with Lennox is quite sweetly portrayed and she turns out to be a friend of Amma. In the end, due to many school reforms, she becomes rather bitter and refers to her school as: “Hellhole High School for Losers” and her only reprieve are talented students like Carole and holidays in the Carribean at her mother.

Her mother, Winsome, remenciscances on her youth in England, being treated as monkey people when they move from London to the coast because her husband wants to return to the ancestoral life of a fisher. And she has a very close relationship with her son in law.

The story then follows Penelope, the teaching friend of Shirley. She turns out to be adopted and raised by a racist South African born mother. A stint of unhappy marriages follow after being popular in school (she admitted she’d lost the me of myself and was subsumed within the we of marriage, relinquishing even her surname)
You also see a pattern that every generation sees itself as progressive and fighting for rights while at the same time being superseded and seen as being in power by younger generations (in Penelope’s case Shirley).

Chapter four
Megan/Morgan wrestles with her body while growing up and rebels by dropping out, taking a McDonald job and by taking a lot of drugs.
She discovers herself when starting to chat with Bibi, who empowers (Bibi replied that dreaming wasn’t naive but essential for survival, dreaming was the equivalent of hoping on a large scale) them to be gender free and identify as Morgan.
With their million Twitter (@transwarrior) followers, the National Theatre asks for a review of the play of Amma and they knows Yazz from a lecture held at an university.

Hattie is the grandmother to the partner of Morgan. She is in her nineties and recalls her children struggling while growing up in Britain, contrasted with the experiences of her husband who fled the KKK in America. This story felt slightly redundant compared to Winsome her story in my view, but shows that everyone can have secrets. The discovery that part of her family in the past profited from slave trade is an interesting, if not fully fledged out, topic in this story.

Grace narrates her early 1900’s growing up in a girls school to become a maid, after the early death of her mother, her father being an unknown sailor from Abyssinia. She is mother to Harriet, and her tale of falling in love with an Englishman and her postnatal depression was well executed. Interesting, her mothers tale contrast diametrically with what Harriet experiences very early in life.

Afterparty and epilogue
The afterparty shows lively how almost everyone feels uncomfortable at such events (except those few people doing cocaine), brings some background to characters while bringing them together and has interesting banter on the current revival of the feminist movement (feminism needs tectonic plates to shift, not a trendy makeover & any serious political movement that relies on beauty to sell it is doomed).

Finally the epilogue establishes a connection between two characters in quite a touching manner, closing off the novel with a sentence that could also be used to define it:
... and it’s like the years are swiftly regressing until the lifetimes between them no longer exist
this is not about feeling something or about speaking words
this is about being
Profile Image for Nat K.
415 reviews154 followers
March 3, 2020

✩✩✩ Joint Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2019 ✩✩✩

”On Our Own Terms or Not At All.”

Twelve stories from twelve women.

When I started reading this, the stories seemed straightforward. Deceptively simple & relatively harmless. At face value they seemed to be about “women’s stuff”.

Was I wrong! Upfront, this review will be all over the shop. Bear with. There is just so much going on in this book, it’s a challenge for me to reflect this properly in this review.

We meet women of different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, educational levels, class & sexual persuasions. All caught up in this thing called life.

What does it mean to be a woman today? Does a woman now have the same hopes, dreams & aspirations as a woman did 20, 30, 50 years ago? Does anything ever really change?

The writing style is quite unique. Characters cross paths as their stories intersect. We get to learn more of their backstories while the focus is on anotherprotagonist. I love how I had one impression of a character that I wasn’t particularly keen on, only to change my mind about her many chapters down the track when I saw her in a different light.

I was completely taken off guard by the depiction of domestic violence in an all female relationship. That really opened my eyes. I don’t know why I was so surprised that this occurs.

The plight of the refugee and immigrant is highlighted with poignancy. How much is left behind, and is it worth how much is gained? Does material wealth equal happiness? Even when escaping from a violent country, the cost of broken families cannot be measured. The hopes that the next generation will have an “easier” life and more opportunities. But then the new generation have their own prejudices to overcome and hurdles to jump. A different set of issues to deal with. The goalposts are ever moving.

There are amusing depictions of the “power struggles” between the generations. Each one convinced that their fight is the more important. The one that will change society.

”…the older generation has RUINED EVERYTHING and her generation is dooooooooooooooomed…”
(you get the picture)

We see the dynamics of various constructs of the no longer typical nuclear family. The single mother, the lesbian mother, the working mother, the traditional father from the “old” country, the absentee father, the father who didn’t even know he had a child.

For me these women’s voices are about their struggle to be heard and understood. Treated fairly. Paid equally. Respected and loved.

We also hear from their menfolk. Of their struggles and triumphs as men of colour. The assumption being they’ll either end up as football stars, bouncers or hooligans. The ones that do rise to some level of corporate achievement often have to do so at personal cost.

Bernadine Evaristo captures the subtle quirks and failings of her characters with biting wit. But she also captures their vulnerabilities and strengths with equal candour. We get into their heads.

I’m old school when it comes to grammar and punctuation (a la “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”). I don’t even use abbreviations in text messages. Oddly, the distinct lack of following writing “rules” in this book didn’t bother me.

Sentences merge into one another in a free flowing form. There’s the occasional capital letter, and the fullstop is an endangered species. But for some perverse reason I can’t possibly fathom, it works.

I’m thrilled this book has made it to the Booker shortlist. Very well deserved.

A very solid 4.5 ★★★★ It was just an eeny bit too long for me. Having said that, I’m keen to read Bernadine’s other books.

*** Shortlisted for the Man Booker. Deservedly so! ***

*** Another unofficial buddy read (*waves*) with extremely well-read-book-fiend Collin. Yup, I’m hanging off his Man Booker Prize 2019 coat tails. Makes me feel somewhat a more sophisticated reader to do so. #Team Collin. Please make sure you check out his utterly fab review, it makes a hell of a lot more sense than mine…
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ***
Profile Image for Talkincloud.
161 reviews3,252 followers
April 17, 2021
Przeczytałem po raz drugi.

Wspaniała. Potrzebna. Poruszająca.

Evaristo osiągnęła to, co chciała osiągnąć: przekazała w bardzo prosty i piękny sposób prawdę, o której często zapominamy – wszyscy jesteśmy równi, a najlepiej żyje nam się razem. Doceniajmy to.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews860 followers
January 15, 2023
Twelve beautifully interwoven short stories (one per chapter) about the lives and in many cases life-stories of an eclectic group (although the majority are Black or mixed-raced women) across nationalities, gender, sexuality and most of all generations with oldest point-of-view story being that of a 98-year old woman , and former farmer! Amma, pro-Feminist, pro-Black pro-Lesbian, class and one-time anti-conformist race and gender warrior now in her 50s has a dazzling African female orientated play debuting at the National Theatre, and this is where the 12 characters stories meet at the start and end of the book.

I found all 12 stories utterly absorbing as the dig deep into the experiences and/or feelings of the character-lead. Big warning - this is no boo-hoo story dictated by intolerance and inequality, it's 12 personal stories spanning over a century(!) about pain, love, family, loss, hard work, belonging, escape etc most of all it's a story that shows just 12 of the many faces of people in the modern UK, that one thing diversity certainly does bring is diverse stories. Oh, and did I mention that Evaristo's writing style: sentence and paragraph constructions without a starting capital letter; superbly individually sharing of the sentiment and 'voice' of each character making them that more distinct and believable; delicately interweaving of the stories that build a bigger picture on completion; the writing was also extremely accessible whether detailing opera preferences or working on a farm - this was a lot to read. Boy, Man, Reader gave this a 9.5 out of 12 very firm Four Stars.

2023 read
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews966 followers
March 9, 2020
The winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other takes an energetic look at British Black womanhood. The linked short story collection consists of four triptychs, each focusing on the hopes and frustrations of Black women as they navigate Britain’s social hierarchy. Evaristo’s fragmented prose is compelling and propels the cinematic collection forward; again and again at a breakneck pace the highlights of a life are surveyed, from school troubles to late-in-life despair. A lesbian playwright prepares to debut what she hopes to be her ticket to mainstream success, while a high-energy vice president of a bank plots her next move. The best stories are found near the start, with later chapters feeling a bit rushed and predictable.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,136 reviews8,149 followers
June 10, 2020
What a pleasant surprise! I truly didn’t know anything about this beyond that it won (or rather, oddly, tied) for the 2019 Booker Prize with Atwood’s The Testaments — after finishing this one...how?? Nonetheless, Evaristo has put together a cleverly intertwined collection of stories that reflects the lives of Black female & non-binary characters in modern England. It’s quite an ambitious novel but manages to pull it off with ease. My only small gripe is it’s a bit long, so by the end I was struggling to keep up with so many characters and recall who someone from the earlier sections was as they were referenced in the final chapters. It may also be a book I forget the details of over time but will hold fondly as a unique, enjoyable reading experience and would likely lend itself well to a re-read down the road! Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Dwayne.
120 reviews116 followers
March 20, 2023
When it comes to the arts, people like to argue about awards- the importance of winning them, and how much we look to them for validation of our personal tastes. Indeed, some of my closest friends and quite a few of my followers on social media don't often see their relevance, especially of book prizes that usually vote by committee. BUT, prior to her winning the Booker prize, I had never heard of Bernardine Evaristo. It's quite possible then, that had it not been for that particular prize, there's a slight chance I wouldn't have been inclined to read this. The Booker literally introduced me to her.

So why did this win that prize, and what can I possibly say about this book that hasn't already been said? I could talk about how apt it is in our present and very confused socio-political climate. I could mention the 12 interwoven stories and the necessary representation of Black womxn. I could go on and on about the writing style and Evaristo's sharp wit. Instead, I'll point out that Girl, Woman, Other is the best book I've read in a very, very long time. The scope is massive; the writing is excellent. THIS is Black excellence.

I'm almost upset at myself for taking this long to read it, and (no shade to Margaret Atwood) I'm still upset that the ONLY Black woman to have won the literary prize in 50 years had to be shared with somebody white. Couldn't the book have stood by itself representative of the best in fiction that year? Anyways, a lot has been said and written about that, so no need for me to rehash it here. I’ll ignore that Atwood won and just be thrilled for Evaristo.

Now. Even in saying all of this, I still would be hesitant in recommending it to just anybody. Some just won't get it or might see it as being too "woke." Others will find fault with its plotlessness. Others still will take issue with its fluid structure and lack of punctuation. Just read some of the reviews on here. (If you liked the book, please don't. Consider that a warning.) But you know what? I love how the book is written. It reads like poetry. Its ever-shifting, ever-expanding perspectives represent inhabited worlds and lived experiences. And just when you think you've had it figured out, it sneaks up on you and breaks your heart. I felt like I knew these people. I love how they are presented in all their messy beauty, their ordinary regalities. They feel like real people- every conflict, every longing, every disappointment, every struggle, every betrayal is thematically rich and vividly authentic.

To me, the epilogue feels a little tacked on, almost unnecessary, but who cares? The point of this book, just like the lives of its characters, is not about perfection or neat endings. Black womxn are resilient, strong, and deserve to have ALL their stories told- that's the point. The world is changing and we need books to reflect that- that is also the point. Bernardine Evaristo, a Black woman, wrote a brilliant, highly original piece of literature deserving of all the praise thrown its way; her fiction is a beauty to behold. For that, we should all be more than a little grateful. I can't wait to read this again. A new favourite!
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,462 reviews8,566 followers
December 8, 2019
An impressive, polyphonic novel narrated by 12 mostly women, mostly black characters living in the UK. I learned a lot from this novel without feeling like Bernardine Evaristo tried at all to lecture me. The voices in this collection encompass diversity across social identities, across sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and more. The characters also range in their emotional status, as some embody a cynical and disillusioned perspective whereas others carry a more yearning fire for change within their own lives and/or within the world overall.

I most loved this book for the way it portrays the complexity of life and how Evaristo collapsed time both within and across each individual story. For example, in one affecting story she shares how a woman named Dominique starts a relationship with a radical lesbian who lives in a separatist commune, only later on to realize that this lesbian partner is emotionally abusive, manipulative, and controlling. In this story Evaristo portrayed the narrator’s descent into this abusive relationship so well: the initial love, the diminishment of her agency within her relationship, then her struggle and eventual success to break free and how her life looks like afterward. I felt so connected to Dominique’s story. Evaristo’s portrayal of how her life changes over time gave me hope for what may manifest in my life and the lives of other people I know who are currently in unsatisfying or outright awful situations. I also appreciated the messiness and unresolvedness within certain narratives, such as Bummi’s, in which she engages in a romantic relationship with a woman for a period of life but then ends the relationship in a rather cutting and cruel way. Evaristo shows how her life progresses beyond this relationship and how Bummi never really apologizes or resolves this one relationship in her life, which feels authentic to real life, how we engage in loving romantic and platonic relationships that influence us deeply yet do not wrap up neatly at all, as we do our best to move on and move forward.

I only give it four stars instead of five because the book felt a little long to me and toward the end the length of the book eclipsed my capacity to recognize the interlocking connections between different narratives. I would still recommend this book though, especially to those looking for contemporary fiction set in the UK centering voices that are underrepresented in the literature. While the unconventional writing style took me aback initially, I got used to it and appreciated Evaristo’s commitment to her prose style and her ability to still communicate compelling and emotionally affective stories while letting go of traditional grammatical structures. Glad this book won the Man Booker Prize and curious to read what others think of it as well.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.5k followers
March 31, 2022
Here is the thing: In a sense, I'm loyal. I'm dedicated. I give everything my all.

Or, in other words: When I hate something, I really really hate something.

And one such example is poetry.

I decided I hated poetry one day in seventh grade and I've never...quite...been able to shake it. And I've tried!

I've read poetry by authors I like. I've read prose poetry and poetry-y prose. I've read new poems, old poems, overwrought poems, that kinda Instagram poem where you just
enter a lot
at random
(the worst kind of all).

None of it works.

And so while I wanted to like this so much, and it is fundamentally about my favorite thing (different people and how we are all flawed but the best), and it is so impressive, and I am so susceptible to the power of a good ending, but the truth of the matter is that this style - a sort of slammy poetry - didn't work for me at all!

I think if the style or structure had varied person by person, it would actually have added to my enjoyment, but the liberal use of the enter key kept me at a distance from everyone, and definitely didn't help in keeping the characters straight.

It's a bajillion different characters with interchangeable perspectives! The voice never changed and I couldn't keep anyone straight, and it capped my enjoyment level pretty low.

This is still a good book.

It's just not for me.

Not every unpopular opinion is a fun one.

Bottom line: I'm sorry!!! I wish I were different.


reading books by Black authors for Black History Month!

book 1: caste
book 2: business not as usual
book 3: the color purple
book 4: the parking lot attendant
book 5: kindred
book 6: wrapped up in you
book 7: the boyfriend project
book 8: a song below water
book 9: filthy animals
book 10: passing
book 11: seven days in june
book 12: ayiti
book 13: notes of a native son
book 14: mediocre
book 15: sister outsider
book 16: the blue road
book 17: the fastest way to fall
book 18: real life
book 19: girl, woman, other
Profile Image for Neale .
292 reviews133 followers
September 22, 2019

The novel opens with Amma just about to open her play, “The Last Amazon of Dahomy”, at the National Theatre. She reminisces about her friend Dominique and the days when they were starting out in theatre. The days they would heckle and disrupt any shows that offended them. She remembers how firmly they both believed in their public protests.
Because of their strong political views and protests, both girls found it impossible to find work as actresses, so they decided to open their own theatre company.

Amma is one character from a group of twelve women. The novel follows this group of women and their everyday problems. Problems, that are problems only to a paranoid, insecure, mind, like celluloid, and eyebrows, fat where there is no fat. To more serious problems such as wearing a hijab after the twin tower bombings. The girls come from all different walks of life, countries and cultures, even generations, and yet they all are connected to the central narrative. The novel's central narrative, its beating heart, is the characters and their lives. In some ways it almost feels like you are being bombarded from a plethora of perspectives. However, it works, extremely well. The narrative hops all over the place from character to character, back and forth in time and again perspective. The story revolves around these characters, their lives, their desires, fears. It is a delight to be reading one character’s narrative line, and then find the connections to the other characters lines. They may be parents, siblings, friends, the connections are everywhere.

The phrase, never judge somebody until you have walked a mile in their shoes, has never seemed more apt than in this novel. You will briefly meet a character in one character’s story that you may dislike, or cast quick judgement upon, then you will find out more about them in their own story and find why they are the way they are, or how somebodies actions or views can so easily be misconstrued. There are so many perspectives and connections that this novel almost requires multiple reads to fully appreciate the skill that has gone into this book. The way that all the character’s chapters are joined in some way reminded me very much of David Mitchell.

The last chapter is also skilfully written. Just as the novel opens with Amma’s play about to start, it concludes with the after party of the play in which many of the characters are present. This creates an excellent narrative balance and finale. The epilogue is the icing on top.

Punctuation is thrown out the window with this book. I personally feel that punctuation, call me old school, is a must. However, having said that, this book does flow along almost poetically at times, and I found myself forgetting about the lack of punctuation very early into the novel and enjoying it not long after that.

This is an amazing book, addressing issues such as racism, sexism, stereotypes, feminism, social media, almost furtively at times, and at others right in your face. This is right up there with my favourite reads of the year. 5 Stars.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,339 followers
November 9, 2019
I started Girl, Woman, Other on the morning of the day it was announced as one of two Booker prize winners this year. I was vaguely aware it had been nominated and had no idea it was going to win that day. But I’m happy to see that it won. I absolutely loved it. It will likely be my favourite novel of the year. It feels original and contemporary, while delivering great characters and good storytelling. Evaristo tells the story of 14 interconnected characters — primarily women of colour in England. Their stories span the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s some heartbreak, a bit of humour and a tad of a political undertone — but mostly lots of heart. I loved each story and I loved how they were connected, and especially how they come together beautifully at the end.

I rarely read books twice, but I could definitely see reading this one again. It would make for a great audiobook.

Thanksgiving to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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