I hope you’re all doing fine and you’ve been enjoying the summer so far. We’ve finally had some more beautiful weather (I was wondering where it had gone), and as such I’ve been spending more time outdoors and my neighbours are having more garden parties (there’s someone belting out ‘Waterloo’ on Karaoke to the neighbourhood as I type!).
It’s been another super busy (and my word – tiring) week or two for us, as I’m now working full time, the gym has reopened and we’ve finally condensed 2 houses into 1, which is fantastic….however I’ve also not realised just how many clothes I have until now! We seriously need to be able to move and get a bigger house ASAP just for the wardrobe space! On a plus note, I’ve found that I absolutely DO NOT need to buy party dresses for at least the next 5 years; the amount of gorgeous ones I own with tags still on is shameful!
I’ve been reading as much as I can between working, working out and moving furniture, and one book I picked up from my local Indie a while ago (Shoutout to JE Books of Hull!) after it was strongly recommended by the #bookstagram community, is the topic of my next review.
GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER BY BERNADINE EVARISTO
“This is Britain as you’ve never read it.
This is Britain as it has never been told.
From the top of the country to the bottom, across more than a century of change and growth and struggle and life, Girl, Woman, Other follows twelve very different characters on an entwined journey of discovery.
It is future, it its past. It is fiction, it is history.
It is a novel about who we are now.”Girl, Woman, Other.
Booker Prize Joint winner for 2019. Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020. Praised highly by so many bloggers and book lovers and written by a female professor, author and activist. I was honestly so excited to receive this book and opened up the first page as soon as I possibly could. I knew that good things (and perhaps difficult reading) were in store, and I just wanted to immerse myself in it. May I also add, this new edition of the book cover is so vibrant, joyful and colourful and I absolutely adore it.
So the first thing I noticed is that the layout of this book is very peculiar and unlike anything I’ve really seen before. It had hints of ‘Milkman’ but thankfully people here do actually have names, and those names are within each chapter; so there are 4 chapters containing 3 female character’s stories within them, and then Chapter 5 is the ‘after party’. When you begin reading, you also find that within these subsections per character, there are also further separated by chapters. Lets just say, I’m glad I had my bookmark!
Turning to Chapter 1, ‘Amma’, I found from the get go that punctuation marks do not exist here. Only names have capital letters, there are no sentences, full stops etc. It is somewhere between prose and poetry, structured almost as spoken word but there is definitely a flow and pattern to it’s structure.
For the first half of the book (first 200 pages, 6 characters in), I will absolutely tell you that I struggled. I was struggling mostly to get used to reading in this prose hybrid format. I am one of those annoying spelling and grammar people that gets agitated at sales banners written with incorrect apostrophes and comma placement, and sending a work email containing a spelling mistake is an example of one of my professional nightmares. However I also struggled with the characters in the first half. I was promised ’12 very different characters’ but that’s not what I felt I was getting here. I wanted a plethora of women’s stories from different circumstances with different viewpoints on the world, different ideals and beliefs and priorities. I’m afraid however that many of the characters could have been pretty much the same person to me; Amma, and Dominique in particular were far too similar in their exact same beliefs and concerns with the environment, capitalism, politics, sexual orientation and way of life. Even Bummi who is starting her own business has a paragraph where she wishes to use her business for environmental activism (well, destruction). I felt that Evaristo had injected a little too much of her own voice into the proceedings and all of the speech patterns and choice of words just sounded the same. Sadly too, these characters were at the beginning and pretty much one after another.
I also don’t know that many people who feel strongly about the environment, but at least 25% of the characters in this story apparently do. It certainly didn’t fit the narrative for Bummi’s character for example. Whilst I am someone who does feel strongly about recycling, and avoiding single use plastics etc; I really didn’t feel like I was reading a novel at times, it felt more like an article trying to inspire activism and anti-capitalism, which isn’t what I turned to these pages for. It felt pushy on the reader and wasnt required.
However after a little bit of a whinge on my part, book chat and huge push to carry on reading it from the lovely community over on my Instagram, I persevered. I was so glad I did.
It took me 2 weeks to read 200 pages, but then read the next 200 pages in 2 days. Something really changed course in this book, and for me it began with the characters of Shirley and Winsome. These people really did seem to be from different backgrounds, different working environments, different experiences. As such as they had diversity in their thoughts and speech patterns, and I felt connected to their voices and eager to understand them. They offered the dynamic nature of reading and characters that I was hoping for, and I really from here began to appreciate the way that all of the characters connected. What I enjoyed is that this connection didn’t feel forced in anyway. Characters from chapters past seemingly bump into one another, either via employment, family or events and I genuinely appreciated that they did begin to have very differences of opinions from each other. They offered different dynamics and perspectives which I really appreciated.
Personally, I found Chapter 5 ‘After Party’ to be truly beautiful and was my favourite part of the book. In terms of characters, I would say that I absolutely adored Hattie the most. No nonsense, tough as old boots, straight talking, worldly. 110% my kind of person.
The character I struggled with is Winsome – she was a great change to what I had been reading but she does something which I just do not buy. I’m not going to spoil this for you if you’ve not read it, but something downright shocking happens, which kind of made me feel a bit sick! I don’t think this happens IRL, but if it does, then maybe I’ve been a bit too sheltered andneed to start reading some trashy magazines! If you’ve read this book, then I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this section.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
Honestly this is a tough one to rate this time. If you’d have asked me any time between pages 0-200 I’d have said 1.5/5. I was so fed up of having the author’s agenda pushed on to me and not seeing any dynamic relationships or realistic conversations between characters. This didn’t entirely change, toward the end of the book for example Amma and Dominique apparently drink bottles(!) of wine and do lines of coke and then have detailed and eloquent discussions about feminism, politics and conscious raising therapy. I mean, just no.
However I truly appreciated the other characters and began to understand these women and the reason they felt or thought the things they felt, experienced or did. I was hoping to find some really strong, relatable characters that could teach me about their lives, beliefs and experiences through the pages and I felt that I got that from quite a few of the ladies. I am disappointed that some of the characters were pretty boring to me (because they were just ‘the same’ as others and I was tired of the pushy far left/green agenda), but all in all, I think given I have now gotten used to the writing style and know what to expect from the characters, then it probably is one I’d read again.
I would recommend to anyone interested in reading and learning a book written from a feminist, diverse perspective, to expand their understandings of what it means to be ‘British’ and to deepen their appreciation of others that may have different backgrounds to their own and whom may experience negative reactions based upon their skin colour, accent or heritage.
Where to buy:
Obviously it would be awesome if you could also seek out your local independent and purchase from them like I did here, but here are some mainstream locations to purchase from if not:
Amazon: £4.50 (bargain!!!)
Book Depository: £7.26
WASHED DOWN WITH:
I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU! So nostalgia alert – level 100! The lovely gang at teapigs kindly sent me some of their Limited Edition Jelly and Ice cream tea to try, which I was beyond super excited to receive. I know from being a keen teapigger that their tea is always perfection (IMO), from the tea leaves inside to the environmentally friendly outer packaging. It always smells and looks amazing (and tastes good too!) so I was really looking forward to trying these. So first off these can be brewed either cold or hot (I’ve only tried it as a hot tea), and from opening the box up, the first thing you notice is that it smells INCREDIBLE. Memories of pass the parcel and birthday candles came to the forefront of my mind, they’ve got the smell of jelly and ice cream just right and this only intensifies when brewed.
In terms of flavour, I’d say that the jelly takes the primary taste note and the ice cream flavour is a little on the weaker side for my personal preference (in that it’s not overly vanilla-ry or sweet) but it does of course mean you can drink it alongside something sweet without it being overpowering, like I’ve been doing whilst writing this post! 🙂
To try your own, head over to Teapigs where you can get 10 of these limited edition tea bags for just £3.99! They’ll be an amazing edition to your summer tea collection and best of all…at only 3 calories a cup – GUILT FREE!
So lovely readers, I’m currently reading a book that is DRAGGING but I’m being truly true to my nature (STUBBORN) and refusing to give up. I’m praying that it takes a turn shortly like this one did for me, but I’m starting to feel it’s just not going to happen! I’ll be sharing that with you as soon as I’ve finished it, which will hopefully be soon so I can get onto something I actually love!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend guys, get in touch on Facebook or instagram if you have them (@papyrusandpeppermint) and as always, I’d be happy to hear from you on here too – just like follow or comment below.
Until the next chapter,