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Girl, Woman, Other

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,885 ratings  ·  346 reviews
Joint Winner of the Man Booker Prize 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.
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Hardcover, 453 pages
Published May 2nd 2019 by Hamish Hamilton
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Gumble's Yard
Winner (jointly) of the 2019 Booker Prize - perhaps appropriately given its closing words

this is about being
together


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

description

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

this is about being
together


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

description

description

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.

MAIN REVIEW

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.
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Lisa
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 creati
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Meike
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-booker, uk
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
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Nat K
✩✩✩ 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.

W
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Collin
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE.


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 wor
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Bianca
Update: (Joint) Winner of the Man Booker Prize

Had it not been for its Man Booker Prize longlisting and subsequent short-listing, who knows if I’d have read Girl, Woman, Other. Many thanks to Grove Press, Black Cat for the eARC.

Girl, Woman, Other is a perfectly titled novel. This time, you won’t hear me complain about “yet another girl book”. This novel is made up of twelve interconnected chapters that focus on a certain woman, eleven of them black, one not knowing she had black genes.

Evaristo mana
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Lee
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Joint-winner of the Booker Prize 2019 😑.

I'm going to overlook the few problems this has and simply rate it in direct proportion to how much of an antidote it is to the jokers who are currently trying to destroy the UK, and how much I think everyone should read it, especially if they want to remind themselves what defiantly empathetic, perfectly-controlled, generous, funny, unflinching-yet-uplifting fiction looks like.
Katia N
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I snuck one more book in from the Booker Prize shortlist before it is awarded tonight. This book doesn't come out in the United States until December 3, but I was able to get a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.

Girl, Woman, Other follows a string of women in the UK, and all are women of color with a fair amount of varying sexual orientation. Each section has its own voice and style while the characters interact with each other throughout (so the reader gets different versions
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Hugh
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Deserved Winner of the Booker Prize 2019

This was my first experience of reading Evaristo, and on balance it was a positive one. It occupies the grey area between short story collection and novel - each of the first 12 sections could be a story in its own right, and relates the life story of a different woman (or in one case a trans person) and all of them have at least some black roots ((view spoiler) ...more
Erin Glover
I put this book down after spending 452 pages reading about lesbians, transexuals, polyamorous people, gender non-conformists, black feminists, white feminists, gay men, transvestites and I was left with one overarching feeling: we're all the same. No matter how one identifies or one's orientation, we are all people who want to be loved, who have feelings, who suffer, who experience joy.

This message that we’re more alike than we might believe is brought home at the end of the novel where after
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Britta Böhler
I'm in the minority here because I didnt like this book. It irked the hell out of me that it seems all that (straight) women REALLY want is... a man.
Here is my review on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr-yd...
Read By RodKelly
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Voices flooding the page. Called forth from that bottomless wellspring of black womanhood. Where she is green with youth, and serenely and sagaciously aged. Where she is multi-caste: Nigerian and, Trini and, Ethiopian and. Where she is womanloving. Where she is mother and mothered. Where she is elemental. Where she is powerful. Power. Where she is weak with shame and doubt and yet seen in all her profundity, in all her kink and insecurity, her hidden pain and the nightmare of oppression and shou ...more
Eric Anderson
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve mentioned in the past how novels which are more like books of interconnected short stories are my favourite kind. “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernadine Evaristo invents a new slant to this form of prose and it does so in a way which poignantly relates to the novel’s overall meaning. The stories in this novel revolve around particular groups which are usually composed of a daughter, mother and friend/lover/important familial figure. They focus on twelve central characters in total whose lives touch upo ...more
Julie Ehlers
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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 i ...more
Barry Pierce
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Girl, Woman, Other Bernardine Evaristo creates more memorable characters than some authors could only dream of doing in a whole career.

The novel is set off by Amma who is walking across the brutalist playground that is the Southbank toward the NT where her newest play is just about to open. Over the next couple hundred pages, Evaristo explores the lives of Amma and eleven other people, all black womxn and one trans man, who are either directly or indirectly connected through Amma and her wo
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Robert
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To be honest my gut reaction was to initially write OMG THIS BOOK IS AMAZING I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN OMG OMG EVERYONE HAS TO READ THIS YOUR EYES WILL BE OPENED.

The reason being is; how can I as a straight white male write about a book which is about Anglo-African (and in one case Afro-American) women sexism AND gender politics?

I can try though.

Girl, Woman, Other gives the reader 12 stories about 12 different women. At times their lives intersect some chapters,
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Doug
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 'factoi
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Trudie
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Girl, Woman, Other would make a fantastic addition to a Brit Lit survey course which also included Andrea Levy's 2004 novel Small Island and Zadie Smith's White Teeth, while neither of these books is entirely voiced by women, collectively they tell a rich story of Britain learning to deal with its colonial past. Evaristo's novel feels like the natural progression of those books. The 12 voices of Girl, Woman, Other ( not all black and not all female ) cover many circles on the intersectional Venn diagram. ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My favorite author is Elizabeth Strout, and for me, this book approached character development in a very similar fashion to Strout while adding in Toni Morrison-like poetic touches to wonderful effect.

The book is divided into four sections and each section tells the stories of three characters that are somehow interrelated. It's a book that revels in telling the stories of a very diverse group of women (background, upbringing, sexuality, etc.) without taking itself too seriously and without
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Paul Fulcher
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booker-2019, 2019
although the mother of his only child, writer and director, and dear, dear friend, could have made her name where it mattered a long time ago, if she’d taken his advice and directed a few multi-culti Shakespeares, Greek tragedies and other classics, instead of writing plays about black women which will never have popular appeal, simply because the majority of the majority sees the majority of Les Négresses as separate to themselves, an embodiment of Otherness

Girl, Women, Other, the latest novel by Bernardine
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Ron Charles
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels-about-art
Barnardine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other,” available next week in the United States, is a breathtaking symphony of black women’s voices, a clear-eyed survey of contemporary challenges that’s nevertheless wonderfully life-affirming.

Although the novel’s structure sounds daunting, “Girl, Woman, Other” is choreographed with such fluid artistry that it never feels labored. The story begins just hours before the debut of a play at the National Theatre in London, and it ends 450 pages late
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Krista
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, man-booker-nod
life's so much simpler for men, simply because women are so much more complicated than them

Combining poetry and prose, eschewing capitals at the beginnings of sentences and punctuation at their ends, reading mostly like a collection of short stories (featuring twelve protagonists and the countless other characters who flesh out their histories), Bernardine Evaristo has crafted a loose and freefloating form in Girl, Woman, Other that allows her to flit between interior monologues and exterior dial
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Neil
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-booker, 2019
“Girl, Woman, Other” gives us 12 stories for the price of one. In some ways, the book is a collection of 12 short stories, but the links between the characters are so strong that even though there is no over-arching story being told, it always feels as though you are reading a novel.

The 12 stories are cleverly constructed in four groups of three. For example, the first grouping (Chapter 1), introduces us to Amma, then to Yazz who is Amma’s daughter, and then to Dominique who is Amma’
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But_i_thought_
Bernadene Evaristo’s “Girl Woman Other” is a breath of fresh air.

Narrated in a hypnotic blend of prose, poetry and verse, the book presents us with the voices of 12 black British women from different generations (from the 1900s to the present). As expected, race, privilege, gender and identity are the main issues under the author’s lens, but these themes are tackled in a nuanced and deliciously witty, almost subversive way. Characters question and challenge each other’s core assumpti
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Claire
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2019
Well there’s not a lot I can say about this novel (collection of interlinked short stories?) than has already been said. But I’ll start with the most important wow- Evaristo really deserved that Booker win and what an outrageous shame that she’s had to share that moment and achievement.
Girl, Woman, Other is not a perfect novel. Sure there were a couple of moments when the links could have been stronger or the pacing tighter. However, as a reader I was prepared to lay these moments of incon
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David
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Evaristo has given us an exuberant celebration of womanhood, with special emphasis on brown-skinned characters who cover the gender and sexual orientation spectra. This is clear cause for celebration and there is plenty to admire here. I'm pleased this year's Booker prize judges have spotlighted her latest novel and have nothing but praise for their decision to advance it to the shortlist. I just wish the diversity of experience and personal story in Girl, Woman, Other had been reflected in a greater ...more
Dan
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Powerful – powerful – powerful. Well told and compelling stories, some tightly linked to each other, some loosely, perhaps occasionally too loosely. Initially skeptical about Evaristo’s grammatical conceits and the absence of initial caps and periods, by the end I was totally absorbed and convinced that Evaristo’s style here fit her purposes and her story-telling beautifully. Sorry to see Girl, Woman, Other end: her characters will stay with me and I will continue to wonder about their whereabouts an ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Evaristo is able to skilfully depict the lives of the various women who feature in 'Girl, Woman, Other', the richness of their inner lives is skilfully drawn out by Evaristo, from the nonagenarian landowner Hattie, to the young single mother in London with three children from different fathers, to the high-flying Carole whose life seems to be a perpetual attempt to escape her blackness,  or Yazz who is trying to find her identity beneath the multitude of labels which are thrust on her (woman, bl ...more
Katie Long
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-unread
A series of loosely connected stories of (mostly) Black, (mostly) immigrant (mostly) women in England. No one here has an easy life, but they all seem to have an innate sense of hope and an optimism that is refreshing. Is it possibly too optimistic at times? Sure. Did I enjoy every minute of it? I sure did.
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The Mookse and th...: 2019 Booker Winner: Girl, Woman, Other 83 153 9 hours, 42 min ago  
Choices - Man Booker 2019 1 5 Oct 15, 2019 03:17AM  
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Bernardine Evaristo is a British writer, born in Woolwich, south east London to an English mother and Nigerian father. She has written novels in various mixes of prose and poetry; she has also written poems, radio plays, and theatre plays. Among her other honours, The Emperor's Babe was chosen as one of the Times' "100 Best Books of the Decade" and Evaristo was named a Member of the British Empire (MB ...more
“Courtney added that as she only fancies black men and is likely going to have mixed-race children, her ‘white privilege’ is in any case going to be seriously dented, like at least 50% of it, and it’s incredible in this day and age that she’d never met any black people in the flesh before she came to university from Dartingford which is entirely white except for three Asians” 1 likes
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