Expanding Literary Narrative: A Response to Bernardine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other”

By Stefan Cozza

As avid readers, we are always looking to find the next piece of literature that will challenge and force us to put our reality and privilege into perspective. Published in 2019, and winner of the that year’s Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other, will surely satisfy your itch for that next gripping novel. I am having the privilege of reading Evaristo’s mesmerizing work for my contemporary British Literature course, which highlight’s people of color’s experience living in and around England. Evaristo provides the reader with a unique insight into the lives of 12 complex and fascinating characters, all of which are women of color, and many of which do not fall into the traditional gender binary spectrum. Evaristo not only presents narratives that push back against traditional ideals about femininity, gender, and race, but she does so while acknowledging the historical, political, and social factors that create the reality of many of her characters. Each character in Evaristo’s novel gets their own section, in which the author jumps around various points in that individual’s life. Her narrative is not linear, but it never feels jumbled or confusing. I feel like I am going into the mind of each and every one of these 12 individuals: Evaristo picks the events that define her characters and we as readers are meant to find the commonality amongst them.

Evaristo steers away from traditional prose, opting for a more poetic, free-flowing narrative that rarely utilizes punctuation. This creates a “stream-of-consciousness-like” feel to the story, making it feel as if the reader is truly inside these characters’ heads, getting their first-hand,

authentic reactions. Evaristo does not write in complete sentences, rather she uses fragmented clauses and stand-alone phrases that function similarly to stanzas. These stylistic choices not only reflect the intricacy of the human thought process but elevate Evaristo’s rich narrative beyond the level of greatness of simply being a good novel. I would recommend Girl, Woman, Other to any fiction fan unsure of their next read because they will come out of it so happy they picked it up. Evaristo’s work is interwoven with narratives that you can easily lose yourself in for hours, and I found myself entranced by the way Evaristo seamlessly transitions from character to character without losing momentum, all while opening my eyes to a diverse range of characters.

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