It’s a frustrating read Booker Prize Winning (2019) Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. This book has so much going for it: the fun, effortless writing, the fresh, contemporary look at black women’s lives, even the punctuation-free writing works. Amongst the stories of 12 black women’s lives, there are some truly fabulous ones. Stories that bring you into other people’s lives in a way only the very best literature does. It’s a shame then that there are too many of them (how about 6 rather than 12, for example) and that some feel rushed leaving the reader craving for more while others snail along and fail to engage.
The stories centre around Amma, a black, lesbian playwright who, despite her race, gender and sexual orientation, has pulled off the unthinkable: her play is about to be staged at the National Theatre in London. In the audience are 12 black women, some friends and family, some simply theatre goers. These 12 are the women this book is about.
First the good news, I loved the story of Yazz, Amma’s daughter, and her little multi-cultural posse of friends. The story of city banker Carole breaking through triple glass ceilings of poverty, race and gender also won me over. Supermarket supervisor LaTisha and her battle to survive as a single mum with three children fathered by three absent men also tugged at my heart. Evaristo really makes you feel what it’s like to be these women. I wanted more of them, tough, to get to know them better.
Some of the other stories just didn’t seem credible, were too predictable or simply didn’t engage at which point I started skipping pages. It’s unfortunate, as here’s so much in here that merits a read particularly the original approach to some of our most urgent issues: race, gender and sexuality.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is published by Penguin, 464 pages.