Insole Book Club Notes – June

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I’m going to use the excuse that I’ve been on my holidays for the reason that this post is so late, but we all know that I am just very easily distracted at the moment. Instead of writing this up, I have decorated my lounge and re-arranged the dining room. But today, with July’s book club meeting mere days away, I thought I’d finally get the notes typed up!

I’d say that there was an almost universal love for this book from the book clubbers. And we’d timed it really well with Radio 4 broadcasting an adapted version throughout June, and Evaristo winning Author of the Year at the British Book Awards. We very much seem to have our fingers on the pulse at the moment!

Although the style took a little getting used to, with the lack of punctuation, most of us adapted to it quickly and found that it added to the experience. One member mentioned that the informal style reflected the fluidity of identity of women. We loved that there was enough from each character to truly dive into their lives, and found that the interweaving of the stories made for a hopeful and optimistic ending. The stories were often heart-breaking, but were told with such energy, that they felt uplifting.

We felt that Evaristo did an exceptional job of highlighting the inter-sectionality of the experiences of black women in the UK and brought these often untold stories into the light. There were moments of such touching sisterhood, but these never felt cliched or unrealistic as they were balanced by challenging relationships.

We thought that the exploration of generational divides were particularly interesting and Evaristo make it easy to relate to each character. The different generations of women provided opportunities for humour, like Hattie’s desire for her family to just sod off and leave her alone.

Girl, Woman, Other is in the running to win the George Orwell prize, which is for political fiction. We discussed that many of us hadn’t considered it overtly political but we can see through the perspectives that she presents that it is a commentary on society, and in particular anti-racism/anti-sexism and inter-sectionality.

I was delighted to see that there is a Spotify playlist that includes all of the music mentioned in the book and I managed to find several character maps which were crucial during our discussion, and lent themselves well to a Zoom chat! I can’t begin to link to all of the online articles in which Girl, Woman, Other or Evaristo feature at the moment, but there’s plenty of further reading out there for anyone interested in her unique perspective.

This month, we’re also reading:

  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • The Accidental Apprentice by Vikas Swarup

On Tuesday 28th July, we’ll be meeting to discuss Lanny by Max Porter. Feel free to share any book club recommendations below!

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