Girl, Woman, Other #BookReview

Women of all shapes
Women of all sizes. 
Women of all ages and colours – black and white and all shades between.
Women of all sexes. Yes, that!
Women who aren’t women at all, women who are men, men who are women.
Women who refuse to be defined by this binary structure.
In Girl, Woman, Other

This is one beautiful book.

Girl, Woman, Other charts the lives of twelve British women of colour, their struggles and their wins. 

It begins with ….…

…..Amma’s story, a lesbian theatre person, actor and director. It is the opening night of her feminist play The Last Amazon of Dahomey. Among the audience, we find most of our characters, though we aren’t aware of it just yet. As we turn the pages we are introduced to them in turn.
The narratives overlap sometimes with the women showing up as cameos in others’ stories, taking centre stage in their own.

Amma is there again in the end, wrapping up the book at the After Party of the play along with most of the characters and we get to bid adieu to them all.


My thoughts

I’ve had this book since December and I’ve started it more than once, then abandoned it each time after a few pages. This time around I decided to stick to it and I’m ever so glad! It evened out after the first fifty pages or so and then on, I found it hard to put it down. Each story is captivating in a whole different way.

The writing style…

…had me lost for a while. Written as poetic prose – prose written and expressed like free-flowing poetry without capitalisation or full stops – it takes a little getting used to. However a few pages down I stopped being hampered by it and began to enjoy its beauty.

The women (and I use that word very loosely)……

…..are flawed. Most of them carry the baggage of prejudices, some due to events in their lives, others purely due to their origin. There’s Bummi, insisting her daughter marry a Nigerian. There’s Shirley a ‘boring’ old school teacher and Carol the banker, successful yet never quite at ease with herself or her identity, no matter where she is. There’s Morgan a social media influencer who refuses to be tied down with man/woman tag. And many more.

I found myself invested in the characters, loving them despite, or perhaps because of their flaws. Evaristo builds each character so that I could see where they were coming from, why they acted a certain way and, when one understands a character, one gets to love them. Not all stories had happy ever afters, not in the conventional sense at least, yet none of them left me feeling dissatisfied.

The book has to be re-read

It just isn’t enough to read it once. I went back and read the first chapter after I finished and then I read Morgans chapter again, because that was my favourite. I will probably be reading bits and pieces, looking for the characters as they enter and exit stories other than their own.

A few things that didn’t seem right

There were some small bits that didn’t quite come together. For instance, there was a part where one of the characters, Morgan, gets into drug addiction, the serious kind. And then one day the reality of his situation sinks in and, while his parents are away on a vacation, he gives it up. Just like that. Evaristo makes it sound easy, too easy. In an almost similar repetitive sequence another character Carol, who seems to have fallen into a depression after she is raped, gets back to normal in the space of a paragraph. ‘I quote: It was like she woke up from like a bad dream..’ with no trigger, no help from anyone, nothing. People change, grow, get a grip on life, I understand that. However for it to happen in a flash seemed improbable.

Also, while I did love the characters, there were a few too many and I was constantly mixing them up, specially in the beginning. As the book progressed, however, they took on personality. Which is why I’ll reiterate, don’t let the beginning of the book stop you from moving ahead.

Despite all of that…

….the book forced me to re-evaluate my thoughts not just on women of colour but on all women, on sexuality and equality and the way people form connections and relationships. It brought home the fact that families come in many forms, that a lesbian woman and a gay man who are friends, can together have a child and that was a family too.

Girl, Woman, Other envelops you like a warm patchwork quilt of engrossing stories.

In one of her interviews, Evarista said she deliberately included twelve women as protagonists, that she wanted to include as many women as she possibly could. If there was a book that dispelled Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s fears, of the dangers of a single story, this would very much be it.

Last thought: This booker winner must be read.

22 Replies to “Girl, Woman, Other #BookReview”

  1. So amazing you read this book! Had intended to read this ever since the Booker. It’s easier now with your honest review, I will understand and take a break if I get stuck somewhere…
    Also, great that this book addresses Adichie’s fear of limiting ourselves to the dangers of a single story.
    Looking forward to this book and your wonderful posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was excited too for reading this one and I’m glad it completely lived up to the expectations. Do pick it up and don’t give up on it. I’d suggest you go through the contents and familiarise yourself with the women. It then gets easier. I hope you enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An honest acceptance – I have tried reading Booker prize winning books in the past and barring The Life of Pi no other book proved to be an easy read to me. The beginning of this book – Girl, Woman, Other also feels like the same to me as from your account. The premise of the book is interesting given it is about women of colour and their stories but 12 stories overlapping each other – dimaag ka halwa to nahin ho jayega 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anamika they aren’t over lapping stories – they are individual stories. Don’t let the Booker tag dissuade you. The book opens your eyes to so many alternative thoughts – ones you may not have had at all. For that, even if you have to sort the dimag ka halwa it is worth it :-).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a hard time getting into stories that feature / follow multiple protagonists. But I also have to admit that once I get familiar with the people and the flow of the story, I’ve found some real gems. Adding this to the list of books I need to check out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one book I have been very curious about. This free flowing form of writing is something I experienced with Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X – it can be a little disconcerting reading in that manner but soon I forgot about it as the book was very engrossing.

    Hopefully this one is the same. Your review makes me want to pick it up ASAP Tulika.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So now you’re the second person to have mentioned The Poet X in the context of this book. Need to get to that one.

      Big thanks to you for this gorgeous book.


    1. You are welcome Corinne. I’ve heard that the audible version is better and easier to grasp too. So that’s another option that should be explored.


  5. Wow! I would love to read it and thanks Tulika, I just recommended it as a gift to a book club member.

    I like flawed characters. That’s what makes them real and relatable.

    Thanks for another balanced review.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gosh you read so many amazing books! Your review gives me a deep longing to spend a whole day lost in the lives of these characters. I will keep it in mind for a time when I will get back to consistent reading.


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