Review: Girl, Woman, Other

***** (NO SPOILERS)

WHY I CHOSE IT: I freely admit that I jumped on the bandwagon and bought ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ after it was named the joint-winner of the Booker Prize. Call me a trend-whore, but as soon as I learned about the subject matter of the novel, I knew I would love it.

THE PLOT: ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ follows twelve characters, mostly black British women, who each have a chapter focused on their point of view. Although there is no overarching plot, each of the character’s lives intersect. It spans several generations of Black Britons, from the Victorian era through to the second world war, and into the eighties, nineties and present day.

MY RATING: This book receives five stars because I enjoyed it equally to its Booker Prize co-winner ‘The Testaments’. I was initially put off by the lack of full stops in the novel, which I felt was somewhat gratuitous. However, I’ve taken the unusual sentence structure to be symbolic of how each character weaves into the next one. I also found that the lack of sentence structure allowed for minimal description, which kept the narrative well-paced because only the essential reflections of the setting were included.

I love character driven novels and this didn’t disappoint. Each character had a distinct voice and their actions were infused with their individual upbringing and history. Although some of the characters felt a bit exaggerated, such as LaTisha working in a supermarket till and the Victorian workhouse, death-by-consumption-vibe, it was good that these tropes were contrasted with more complex characters.

I enjoyed how the novel raised key issues around immigration and race, while asking what it means to be ‘woke’ and politically engaged. The satire around some of the characters, such as Roland, Sylvester and Yasmine, and their need to be seen to fight the status-quo allowed for good reflection.

On this point, I’ll betray my feminist sisters and note how I enjoyed how male stories were portrayed through the female perspective. The reader actually gets a lot of nuance about unique issues that affect black British males through their presence (and lack thereof), which I enjoyed.

Overall, I thought the stories of each character were cleverly interlinked, they each had a distinct backstory and a lot of issues were portrayed with wry humour, which brought the novel to life. Although some have condemned the novel for feeling like a series of Guardian articles, I felt like some of the satire around the blanket statements and value judgements made this book a winner in my eyes.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:  “She runs for her life because to slip up is to begin descending the slippery slope to giving in to failure, to inertia, to feeling sorry for herself about that moment in her life, which still creeps to the front of her memory when she least expects it.” Carole, page 139