Book Review: Girl Woman Other
Book Author Bernardine Evaristo
Why read it? To challenge your own bias and consider another point of view. Fictional and educational.
I was given Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo for my birthday and what a truly great gift it was; it is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It focusses on 11 women and one non-binary character, most of whom identify as being Black women. The book is rippled with various intersectionality and beautifully depicts life’s highs and lows for what, on the outside, seem like ordinary women.
The book covers so many topics; racial discrimination, religion, teenage pregnancy, single parent families, rape, adultery, transitioning genders, domestic violence, sexuality, prejudice at work and a whole lot more in between. It is not, however, all doom and gloom, it is also about love, friendship, feminism and equality - or sometimes the lack of equality. Whilst, the book is written as a novel populated with fictional characters, I found the book extremely educational. As a white female reader, it really opened my eyes up to situations which have never been part of my life or up bringing and challenged biases that I didn’t even know I had. I loved the way Evaristo has depicted these, sometimes quite messy and sticky, life situations in such a way as to force me to stop and consider my own assumptions.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Yazz, a black feminist university student, in which her Muslim friend explains what life was like living in London pre and post 9/11 and how the prejudice changed for her. Yazz also debates the issue of privilege with her friends, “…is Obama more privileged that a white man growing up in a trailer park with a junkie single mum and a jailbird father?” as they discuss the “Privilege Olympics”. This was a phase I had not heard before, but I am grateful for being aware of it now.
Similarly, I found the section on Megan/ Morgan enlightening. This is the first book I’ve read which uses the They/ Their pronouns. I found that this really challenged my reading and interpretation of the text; I kept re-reading a line considering whether “They” referred to Megan / Morgan or the auditorium full of students that Megan/Morgan is speaking to? I found that in this chapter I had to relearn what these words refer to.
Dominque’s chapter also really stood out for me as her relationship with her girlfriend so subtly moves from one of love and devotion to the control and manipulation of emotional abuse. Evaristo thoughtfully depicts how small changes in behaviour, that at first seems to be of good intent can spiral into an abusive situation and how important friends are when this occurs.
As the book progresses it becomes clear how all of the characters’ lives are intertwined (think of a much more diverse Love Actually) and beautifully shines a light on how events and interactions can be interpreted differently depending on an individual character’s perspective.
The book is split into 4 chapters which each chapter focusing on 3 different characters, followed by a closing chapter that ties the whole book together. The writing style took me a little while to get used to as capital letters and full stops are used sparingly. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a book that will open your eyes and make you see the world from another point of view then this is for you!