Girl, Woman, Other – Audible Book Review
By Bernardine Evanisto
The first story in Girl, Woman, Other is the tale of a gay, black woman called Amma. We meet her ahead of the opening night of her new play. She was once a radical performer, who turned up at other productions just to shout and stop the performance before she was thrown out. Now, she has made the break into the mainstream herself and is just about to direct her first production at the National Theatre. It is a story of Amazonian women and is still quite radical in its own right. Amma looks back at her life, it is the tale of a young gay woman who was unwilling to hide away and instead decided to fight for acceptance.
Each of the 12 characters has their own chapter in the novel. They are mostly black, British women who deal with the many issues including discrimination, sexual abuse, rape and a multitude of other problems. The tales of the characters often overlap in some fashion. Some of them are friends or family members and they turn up as part of the other stories. There are people from the fringe of society, such as a non-binary character called Morgan and also more typical members of society like Shirley, a secondary school teacher who finds gay people slightly troubling. Their stories are told over a multitude of decades, as we get the important details of their lives but never an in-depth look at any one individual. At times, you’d love to hear more about the characters, as some of the stories are fascinating, but instead we get a whistle-stop tour through their lives, hearing their major events and missing the details.
The book is read by Anna-Maria Nabirye and the London born actor handles the variety of characters with ease, enabling the reader to get lost in the words themselves. This is the eight novel by Evanisto and easily her most successful. It went on to win the Booker prize last year, which is shared with the new work by Margaret Atwood; The Testaments. While ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ may have suffered from sharing the limelight with its much more famous counterpart, it is still quite a remarkable work. It is also very much of its time, with the struggles of feminism and a ‘woke’ generation all given a mouthpiece. Privilege and identity are discussed from a variety of viewpoints, reflecting the ages of the different characters. These are the voices of women who are rarely heard and it is a unique work for its vision and clarity.