Bernardine Evaristo: Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton, 2019)
Twelve characters, twelve identities. There’s a lot to say, and a lot has been said, about this novel which won the Booker Prize, so this is a brief personal reaction.
I love the way Bernadine Evaristo shows us conflict and then encourages us to believe that conflict can be resolved. (Mr Loverman gave a masterclass in bringing your story down to a smooth landing.) This was very marked for me in this novel, with its broad sweep. Amma really did rhyme with hammer, and as a white northerner I read the first pages with my shoulders up round my ears; fair enough, I thought, I have to hear this, this is a book I ought to read. Once we met her student daughter Yazz, though, I was seduced by the wit of the writing and the sharpness of observation. There’s a spirit of generosity here which comes from all these very different points of view across generations and life experiences.
Very appropriate, too, to have minimal punctuation. There’s no beginning to the story of identity, so it makes sense not to have capital letters to mark the start of a sentence; and this is a book where the full stops really do bring you to a stop. One of those novels that opens a window.