Book Reviews

This book will definitely leave you reflecting upon the intersections of each character and their journeys, long after you finish reading their stories.

Reviewed by: Black Queer Book Club

Speaking to the Ultimate Connectedness of Humanity

It is easy to see how, according to the Booker Prize website, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ falls into the ‘experimental novel’ category, with what some book club members called its ‘poetic style’. However, while being experimental, the book effortlessly weaves topics of feminism, queerness, activism etc through the quotidian lives of the characters, giving an excellent insight about navigating the highs and lows of life in Britain today. This is done through the characters who feel both raw and sympathetically rendered.

This is because identity is not treated like a static phenomenon, as exemplified by Morgan’s journey to realising their non-binary gender identity and pansexuality. Issues of class and identity politics are equally not static, as exemplified by Nenet’s status as a woman of colour as set against her affluent background which can be contrasted with Courtney’s white privilege as set against her working class background - a nuance that ‘woke’ Yaz is unable to internalise due to, what read to some as, her constant performativity and posturing.

Of course, some characters are disadvantaged on multiple fronts, for example Carole is faced with a challenge many at the book club meeting discussed observing in their own lives: a distancing from one’s roots in pursuit of social mobility. For many, this ascent is made even more difficult because of systemic factors such as immigration, as illustrated in Bummi’s storyline of pastoral exploitation where alternative suitable supports are unavailable.

It is this nuance that makes it just as easy to empathise with the radical Amma as it is with the far more conservative Penelope. This is also aided by what some thought to be a ‘stream of consciousness’ narrative style which immersed us in the character’s most sincere and deepest thoughts. Though a few of the stories were shorter than we would have otherwise wished, some of us felt that perhaps this was purposeful: perhaps Evaristo left the unresolved futures of some characters to our own interpretation.

Perhaps this was done as a way to leave time for the big crescendo where seemingly disparate characters from disparate stories meet once again. This event was read by some members as speaking to the ultimate connectedness of humanity, with the throughline connecting each character in this novel - young and old, queer and heteronormative - being girlhood, womanhood and otherness. This book will definitely leave you reflecting upon the intersections of each character and their journeys, long after you finish reading their stories.

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