This is Britain as you’ve never read it.
This is Britain as it has never been told.
From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They’re each looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope…
Girl, Woman, Other is a novel that I’ve been meaning to read for some time and now that I’ve read it I am of course kicking myself for not doing so sooner. I was hooked from the very first page and found it to be an incredibly moving look at the lives of the characters featured within its pages.
Girl, Woman, Other introduces the reader to the lives of twelve very different individuals. These characters are a diverse group and vary in age, location, and background. Most of their stories are set in the present day, but Evaristo does provide a multi-generational view, often exploring multiple generations of the same family. This provides an insight into Britain’s recent history, allowing the reader to see the ways in which things have changed as well as the ways in which they are still the same while also painting a portrait of Britain as it is today. There are characters in the novel that I like more than others, and some are happier while others experience more hardship, but each one helps to give a view of a Britain that is underrepresented in fiction.
Girl, Woman, Other straddles the gap between a collection of short stories and a novel. There is a loosely overarching plot which brings many of these characters together at the of the novel, and yet each character’s tale could be taken as a distinct, standalone story. At the same time, these narratives are interlinked and many of these characters know each other – some are related! – with some links that are obvious while others only become clearer as the novel progresses. I like the way in which the reader will sometimes see the same event from different perspectives as the lives of these characters overlap. Structurally, the twelve narratives are grouped into four sets of three, and each of those smaller groups has closer ties between them often, but not always, with familial links between those characters. I found it to be a very neat structure, and very pleasing for my analytical mindset! 😃
Evaristo’s writing style is utterly engaging throughout. I’ve seen some reviews that dislike the lack of full stops and capital letters, and while it’s something I’m usually a stickler for I can honestly say that I didn’t notice this at all as I was reading. Girl, Woman, Other is a novel that I found genuinely difficult to put down and I became entirely caught up in each narrative and I thought that each story flowed brilliantly, with the author displaying an almost poetic style. I believe that Evaristo described it as “fusion fiction” which is certainly apt.
Girl, Woman, Other explores life with all of the ups and downs that are thrown at every one of us. It explores themes of race and racism, sexuality, identity, and feminism in Britain today, and it’s a novel that I can’t recommend enough.