Girl, Woman, Other, the joint winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2019, follows the lives and struggles of twelve women. Black and British, the novel narrativises stories of family, friends, lovers across the country and through the years, giving a sweeping history of the black British experience.
The book is written as a series of four main chapters, each containing three sections with one character per section. All of which, while all Black, British and Female, they differ in age, sexuality, experiences, ethnic make-up, ancestral origin, occupation, cultural background and much more. This is a novel of difference but about being interconnected despite these differences. This is literalised at the end of the novel in the final chapter in which most of these characters, although directly or even loosely connected before, now literally come together.
The writing style Evaristo has chosen is also extremely interesting. Choosing to write the novel as “fusion fiction”, an almost fluid form of prose poetry, lacking the conventional sentences with capital letter openings and full stop endings. Personally, I enjoyed this style as it allowed me to feel as though the characters were truly speaking to me, that I was actively involved in their stories, in their lives. It allows Evaristo to effectively portray characters thoughts across time, between the stories and the characters, giving the reader that personal touch you often crave in novels.
Evaristo is not only unconventional in narrative prose but also narrative structure. We are constantly going back and forth in time as we’re reading, being presented with a broad and diverse spectrum of Black women’s voices. It’s warm, humorous, self-aware and extremely attentive to detail. It’s the story of a contemporary Britain that is rarely seen as it speaks of race, living and surviving in a white dominant culture, the implications and repercussions of this and most of all: the question of identity.
The voice that Evaristo uses is also extremely well done. Vibrant and sympathetic, loving and caring, Evaristo actively humanises the pain and injustice of these women so that it will resonate with Black readers . You know you’ve read a good book when it not only ticks the boxes in terms of diversity (I’ve been seeking for a novel exploring a non-binary gender character for a LONG time), but also makes you feel as if you’ve really met the characters, wondering how I could fit in these women’s lives.
Now, more than ever, it is extremely important to educate ourselves on the lives of Black individuals. Like me, that may involve reading stories about and by Black authors and Black women. Girl, Woman, Otheris one book that does this brilliantly, exploring Black lives in a beautifully vibrant and colourful light. It is an extremely enriching, eye-opening, poetic, tragic, hopeful, relatable, fun and overall brilliant novel. I recommend it ten thousand times over. Trust me, you will not regret it.
Words and photo by Lucy Lillystone