(Sidharth Vardhan’s review of
Bernardine Evaristo’s ‘Girl, Woman, Other’
2019 Booker Winner along with ‘The Testaments’
Book first published in 2019
review first written on October 20, 2019
(3 / 5))
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Bernardine Evaristo’s ‘Girl, woman, other’ is composed of 12 short stories of 12 characters that have some connections with each other followed by the last chapter and the epilogue which brings a few more connections. Each of these short stories is almost always about the life of a woman (there is one based on a character whose sexuality remains undefined) – mostly black women at that.
The good part is the author is funny and seems to write in 21st century, which is actually an achievement. I mean how archaic prose of contemporary fiction is! If writers are out looking to do something ‘modern’ they go for long unpunctuated sentences that Joyce used a century ago. Evaristo has a freshening voice, she is often funny too (unless aesthetic forbids it, an author should try to be funny – it is crime to demand hours of time needed to read a book from an individual and not try to make laugh as often as you can). You could almost see her use emojis… another thing I should like writers to use more often, one of the best things about literature IMO, and all art for that matter, being to make communication easy by providing better expressions for our emotions, I personally think that creator of the first emojis deserves a Nobel prize in literature. I mean singers are already getting it.
On the bad side, most of the stories didn’t leave a strong impression on me – and I guess it is because very little time is spent with any character, they lacked kind of dimensions which longer books would have given them which would make them rememberable. I mean a whole life told in 15 or so pages – can you go much beyond the biggest events of their life? The big events in question were mostly marriages, men leaving women pregnant, their husbands’ leaving them, men being stupid and dogs (that is already well established, you don’t have to write books about it), etc especially in cases where women were housewives. I know that is the lot of some of the housewives but they could have a richer inner life. They could have interests other than men, children, and sex. All that seems to me only one dimension of life.
The stories that did impress me were those of a theatre director, a teacher (very passionate to begin with) and about the character of ‘other’ sexuality. The first two because they talked of their passion and opinions of their work, the third because it also held an active and interesting discussion about sexuality. The story of Amma’s daughter was also interesting. These stories were 4 stars, the rest of the book was mostly 3 stars.
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan