Treat Your Shelf: Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo

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Do not be alarmed by the high page count of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other: the joint winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize is a breeze to read. Although there are a seemingly overwhelming twelve protagonists in the book, Evaristo’s writing assures a genuine, undoubtable connection to each and every one of them. You will find yourself loving old women and young women, rebellious teens and shy wallflowers, and wanting more with the end of each chapter. 

Rather than the traditional form one may expect from a Man Booker Prize winner, Girl, Woman, Other takes on a more poetic form, reading almost like a slam poem or a spontaneous train of thought throughout the five chapters of the book. When asked about the amount of characters and the intriguing form choice in writing the novel, Evaristo told Five Dials: “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.”

So, what is the synopsis of Girl, Woman, Other? It doesn’t really have one: it simply tells the stories of twelve Black, British individuals, mostly women, that seamlessly intertwine as the novel progresses. The stories smoothly flow into one another, while simultaneously providing a completely unique insight into each of the characters. Evaristo narrates each of the protagonists with an effortless affection, truly bringing her characters to life and celebrating the various ages, genders, social backgrounds and sexualities of each individual. 

With Girl, Woman, Other, you’ll want to follow along with this beautifully impactful combination of prose and poetry because it creates twelve unmistakably memorable characters, unites them despite their vast differences, celebrates their singularity as people, and makes each of them so unquestionably memorable that they will stick with you long after the turn of the last page. 

Image Credit: Southbank Centre