Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other

Book - 2019
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The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London's funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley's former students, works hard to earn a degree from Oxford and becomes an investment banker; Carole's mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter's lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.
Publisher: New York : Black Cat, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, [2019].
Edition: First Grove Atlantic edition.
ISBN: 9780802156983
0802156983
Characteristics: 452 pages ; 21 cm.

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Kalira
Jul 22, 2020

This book wasn't quite what I expected - a bit more of a collection of disparate character studies, rather than anything more plot-directed, despite the interwoven threads of the character's lives. That interweaving was really intriguing, I love seeing people from different angles and points of view, and the way they crossed and recrossed each others' lives was so well done and fascinating.

There were some content notes I would have appreciated knowing about beforehand, honestly (infidelity, drugs, quite a few sexual violence happenings or references, some of which were handled in such a way that skirted very near triggers for me).

The poetry-prose hybrid style gave it a unique feel. Personally the lack of any full stops anywhere in the book, and the likewise lack of anything to denote beginnings or ends of sentences, made it tiring to read at times. The use of linebreaks midsentence and as a stylistic point was really well done practically everywhere it was used and had a good impact.

I didn't like the book, but it was interesting. I winced through some portions of it (large swathes of Morgan's story, for example) and while sometimes the uncomfortable or bigoted/judgemental views seemed true to characters' perspectives, sometimes there seemed to be something bleeding through from the author's perspective herself.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jul 16, 2020

I loved the sweeping scope of this novel that illustrates, through multiple interwoven narratives, the scope of experience of black women in the UK. As an American reader who has read a significant amount of African American fiction, the commonalities and differences of this experience were FASCINATING. Super well written and worthy of its 2019 Booker Prize win!

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felixoscar1040
Jul 12, 2020

Strange book. I read for book club. If I had just started it on my own, I likely would have read the first chapter and tossed it. It is basically a novel made up of loosely related short stories about 12 women. Some of those short stories are excellent, so I’m glad I read it for those.

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betsymarzoni
Jul 11, 2020

The language of Evaristo's novel is so beautiful, part poetry and part prose. She introduces us to 12 different Black women in England, each with her own chapter and more amazingly, each with her own VERY distinctive voice and character. Through their stories we explore the evolving roles of women and attitudes towards them for a span of more than 100 years. Many of the characters are intertwined and we see the relationships evolve and grow, or not. There are surprises. There are many discussions of feminism. It was fascinating and deep and very difficult to put down.

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lukasevansherman
Jun 22, 2020

Winner of the 2019 Booker prize, this is a deeply empathetic, nuanced, and probing exploration of identity in 21st century London, where a group of loosely connected women deal with gender, sexuality, race, culture, and work. Great example of intersectionality in fiction (without being preachy).

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DrTeva
Jun 18, 2020

Couldn't bring myself to get past the middle of the second chapter.

s
samesfoley
May 21, 2020

this was a really lovely exploration of black individuals in the UK. 11 of the characters followed are women and one is a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. it was really refreshing to read about such a variety of people; many of these characters are queer, and some are even non-monogamous. the term polyamory is also explicitly used! it was really lovely to see these kinds of relationships normalized.

this is essentially a series of overlapping short stories, each focused on an individual character. these characters are all interconnected, in ways that become increasingly clear as the book moves forward. there was one real WOW moment at the end that got me right in the gut. i was impressed at how well Evaristo layered these stories and built such a rich, real story.
she wishes her mother was alive to enjoy her new life

my only complaint is really that the breadth of characters makes it difficult to follow. by the time a character was mentioned again, i would sometimes forget them or important information about them. i also found the first half of the book a little difficult to connect with. it was highly readable, but not extraordinary compelling. luckily, that changed in the second half, which i read in one day, unable to put the book down.

i think this is a really important book and i'm glad it's gotten so much recognition! i'll definitely be recommending it to others.

CALS_Lee Apr 09, 2020

The style of a different character being the focus of each chapter is not one I’m a big fan of generally, but other than that this book has a lot going for it - well written with a style just unusual enough to be interesting, empathy for all its characters, telling the story of black British women through several generations, engaging contemporary questions of gender and sexuality in a compelling way. And just see if you don't mist up a bit on the final page.

Co-winner of the Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments", but so much better than that book.

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uncommonreader
Mar 16, 2020

Interlinked stories of 12 women of diverse ages, class backgrounds, ethnicities and sexualities. Enjoyed.

liljables Mar 03, 2020

You might recognize this book as the novel that co-won the 2019 Booker Prize, along with Margaret Atwood's follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale, The Testaments. Much was said about the controversial decision to break tradition and choose two winners; namely, the first EVER black woman to win the Booker had to share the title (and the £50,000 prize). Having read both books, I can say that for me, Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other is the superior read by a long-shot.

Girl, Woman, Other is divided into twelve chapters, each of which follows a different character - mostly female, mostly black, and mostly British. Each story is a slice of life, and while there is no primary, overarching plot, the chapters tell interwoven stories. They're grouped into threes where the relationships are most obvious (for example, a mother, a daughter, and the mother's best friend), but you'll see familiar faces and places throughout the twelve chapters.

I'm not going to be coy: I LOVED this novel. The polyphonic narrative really worked for me, and I was impressed throughout at how distinct each character's voice was. In a way, it reminded me of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing*, in the sense that each chapter introduced a new character that was linked to the previous chapter; however, where Gyasi's narrative was linear, Evaristo leaps back and forth through time, often introducing us to a young woman and then her mother, grandmother, or teacher in their youth. As each chapter began, I found myself looking for the thread that would connect this new section to those before, especially if the link was subtle or tenuous. I fell in love with every character, and I know this is a novel I'll read again.

*Please do yourself a favour and read Homegoing!

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Kalira
Jul 22, 2020

Other: Drug-use, infidelity, racism and sexism (as expected) of a wide range of intensities. Mention (sometimes disparaging) of eating disorders and self-hatred, self-harm, suicidal thoughts.

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Kalira
Jul 22, 2020

Sexual Content: Sex and sexual fantasies, almost all from a female perspective, towards/with partners men, women, NB. Varying in level of explicit detail.

k
Kalira
Jul 22, 2020

Violence: Abuse, both threatened and actual, from parents and partners. Rape, including a gang-rape of a thirteen-year-old, from her perspective.

k
Kalira
Jul 22, 2020

Coarse Language: A wide range, including slurs and verbal abuse, from strangers and within friends/family groups.

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