Tuesday 12 May 2020
Review by Tionee Joseph of "Girl, Woman, Other" by Bernardine Evaristo
The first thing one might notice when reading this novel is the breaking of conventional prose style. Its lack of full stops or speech marks and use of enjambment and repetition of single words follows a more poetic style. The structure of the novel is also unconventional; each character’s life is summarised from childhood to adulthood with some of them being loosely connected.
Following the generations through this kind of structure lends itself well to the telling of family history, and lineage is an important theme of this novel. It reminded me of the television series Roots which begins with the African slave Kunta Kinte and follows the journeys of his sucesssive children, grandchildren and so forth into modern day Afro-America.
I read The Lonely Londoners just before reading this but was disappointed by the lack of female voices in the narrative. I was glad that Girl, Woman, Other was addressing this gap in the diaspora. It was even more enjoyable for me as a British Caribbean woman to be able to relate to this novel.
I haven’t read much around the novel’s creation as I wanted to read it without any preconceptions. I wonder how many of these characters are based on real people and which parts have been fictionalized. I felt like Evaristo was using the expanse of the story to address every trope and stereotype rather than creating authentic characters. Nevertheless, she successfully creates emotional nuance; I found a few of the stories really heartbreaking.
I’m glad that this sort of writing is receiving acclaim and I hope it facilitates more modern and diverse writers to have an impact on our canon.
About the reviewer
Tionee Joseph is completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. She has a blog where she writes about writing and gives lifestyle advice, which you can read here. Her articles on film, TV and adaptations have been published. She is currently working on her first thriller novel and writing her first album.