Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo was a joy to read and one of my absolute favorites this year. This is a book I read right after finishing Communion: The Female Search For Love by bell hooks. Communion is a nonfiction book focusing on women, love, and patriarchy; it’s profound. Reading Communion before reading Girl, Woman, Other was beneficial because it made it easier to grasp Evaristo’s finer points.
Girl, Woman, Other is a fictional novel that gives a glimpse of contemporary British society from the viewpoints of 12 characters, who are predominantly black females. The characters are diverse in age, class, culture, and sexuality, including activists, school teachers, a college student, a social media influencer, an Oxford-educated businesswoman, a playwriter, and others. Amma, the main character, begins the book with angst about the opening night of her play, and the remaining short stories intersect with Amma or the opening night. The book is divided into 4 chapters and 3 individual storylines in each chapter, with the last chapter nicely tying everything together. The plot touches on education, domestic abuse, feminism, friendship, mental health, morality, motherhood, politics, racism, rape, and relationship dynamics.
This book is unique, powerful, and vibrant. What resonates most with me is how Evaristo lets the story naturally unfold, which keeps the reader in full anticipation. The reader could never guess what would happen next because a new character’s story would be revealed, leaving the reader stunned. In addition, I loved how all the characters intersect, and each has a distinct voice; only a talented author can create a book with 12 different personalities so effortlessly. This was a strength of the novel.
The most eye-opening narrative was Dominique’s storyline because it highlights that living in a society where we eliminate a specific population does not necessarily resolve all problems since human nature is consistent. Time after time, people often assume the same personality they loathe. However, actual change happens with self-awareness, a willingness for personal growth, and empathy.
The person I found most fascinating was Shirley. Her narrative was initially intriguing because she was passionate about her career, but as the book progresses, you witness how it depletes her and causes her to be bitter. Her resentment comes from a lack of recognition from years of hard work and working for an institution set up for failure. But I can understand how most readers would find Shirley irritating because of her lack of self-awareness. At some point, you have to stop the blaming game and be accountable for your own happiness.
Another interesting aspect of the book is how often the Black British experiences were eerily similar to Black experiences in America, which I found tragic. Is there no safe haven for Black people?
There is essentially nothing I did not like about this book. Honestly, I’m in awe of Evaristo’s breadth of knowledge, and it is evident she did meticulous research in preparation for this novel. It’s a masterpiece and vital reading for all. I strongly recommend this book.