Turning to the multicultural and labyrinthine narrative of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, you’re reminded of the multi-faceted and myriad tendencies of a self. A book that reads like a journal into the lives of 12 women – connected somehow in kinship and affectation – is sketched in a fictively symmetrical format.
The first few stories embrace a perceptible current. They prepare you for what’s to come. You’re as much a part of it as you’re the chanced observer. There are no full stops in the book in that every sentence is broken into smaller pieces so that it feels as uninhibited as the flow of water. To me, it proves the spirit of incandescent and translucent honesty of the characters.
Reading this book is no simple feat. The succinctness of each woman’s story may trick you into believing so. What Bernardine Evaristo does is she embraces certain consistent motifs that run along the length of the book. And out of this emerges a few crocheted structures. Upon each thread, each stream of thought, a woman is willed into being. You read her life to fruition. If at some point you stop reading her story, this “girl, woman, other” who is a sentient presence, by setting the book aside, it’s as if you’ve completely erased her.
The book’s ideal reader is someone who appreciates a quick and light read. It unabashedly taps into feminism but remains as a fictive impersonation of it. The boundaries of which, for the sake of literary fiction, have been pushed to extremes. And this was a significant let-down. It also brings up questions of entitlement. But they’re posed simply as questions; the answers fail to surface as the story stretches in its narration.