Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo

Second section of third chapter:

    she’s wearing a light grey pencil skirt and jacket, powder-blue blouse, grey neck-tie, black patent leather court shoes, and her pride
     as she passes through the formidable doors into the wood-panelled entrance
     wide staircases sweep up either side of the lobby ascending to the upper floors
     long corridors extend in two directions either side of her
     she’s way too early, wanders through the empty school, explores its light-filled classrooms, imagines its essence pouring into her soul, yes, her very soul
     she isn’t going to be a good teacher but a great one
     one who’ll be remembered by generations of working-class children as the person who made them feel capable of achieving anything in life
     a local girl made good, come back to generously pass on

A lot of people may have said “Who?” on hearing that Bernardine Evaristo had won the Man Booker Prize this year, jointly with Margaret Attwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I did not; some years ago I greatly enjoyed The Emperor’s Babe, a narrative poem about a Sudanese girl in third century London. Girl, Woman, Other is a slightly different kettle of fish, with a huge range of characters across contemporary London (with some flashbacks to earlier decades), almost all women, almost all black, all telling their stories from their own perspective, but often those stories intersect and overlap, and we see the same relationships from different angles. I was preparing myself to write here that it was a very engaging, challenging, fascinating read; and then a twist in the last chapter caught me completely by surprise (though it shouldn’t have) and left me sobbing on the train on the way home from work. This does not happen to me very often. A brilliant book. You can get it here.

This was the top book on my unread pile by a non-white author. Next on that list is The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey.

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