Updated: Jul 16, 2020
I came to Girl, Woman, Other with no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that everyone seemed to love it. Evaristo is a new author to me, I hadn’t heard of her before she won the Booker prize last year, so I wasn’t weighed down by expectation here either. All in all, I wasn’t disappointed, I loved Girl, Woman, Other, bar a few difficulties with the ending, I found this a startling and beautiful novel.
Evaristo’s novel follows 12 characters who are all linked but are given separate sections. At first, I struggled with this concept as I was worried that I wouldn’t get invested in any of the stories. However, this was quickly waylaid by the vibrancy of Evaristo’s writing. Each character was well-formed and rounded with different personalities and stories. Not one person was left behind or forgotten which I find is often an issue with novels like this. Girl, Woman, Other comes to life with how the characters are linked. Despite, the sections being separate all the characters are brought together by one central character. The book ends with a party where all the guests are present, and we understand fully their relations with one another. The preceding four chapters allow us to make these connections ourselves without ever being too obvious and in your face. We are taken on a journey of discovery and history that the people we are reading must also take. It is fascinating and clever, leaving the reader to do the work whilst also tying up loose ends.
Saying this, the only minor issue I have with Girl, Woman, Other is the epilogue. Without giving any spoilers, it made complete narrative sense- in that, I understood the reasoning behind the ending, yet I feel like it lacked the power it could have had elsewhere in the novel. Evaristo brings back one of the characters we met earlier and makes links between her and another woman we previously hadn’t seen any connections between. As much as this was interesting, I can’t help but feel this should have been placed within one of the two characters or omitted completely. I had to read it a few times to make sense of what had happened as it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the novel in the way you would have expected. The ending of the final full chapter was pretty powerful, so despite being well written I feel like the meaning was detracted slightly by the following epilogue.
Yet, Evaristo’s novel is beautiful in its varied portraits of British characters. As previously mentioned, each person is given a full story, a full portrait and a full life. Girl, Woman, Other isn’t just a novel about a subsect of society but many different subsects who all come together to show Britain in a different light. The blurb reads ‘This is Britain as you’ve never read it. This is Britain as it has never been told’ and this is true. Every experience is given validity in Evaristo’s book in a way that many multiple perspective novels fail to realise. A five star read, well worth your time.