Book report: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Watch the video at archive.org

On Tuesday 17 March I talked about how my best intentions of relaunching the Book Reports on my stream were already facing rough seas, having just scraped together some thoughts on Dragon Spring Road before going live that evening. I truly believed I would have another report ready to go by Thursday 19 March, but that was not to be. And any thought that I would get a report up and ready in the days and weeks after that quickly evaporated in the face of growing anxiety around the rise of Covid-19. Like a lot of people I had plenty of free time at home, and like a lot of people all I could really focus on was staying calm and getting prepared for the lockdown which arrived in New Zealand on Thursday 26 March.

Girl, Woman, Other cover 

When I read Dragon Springs Road I was reading a book about China while flying to Melbourne for work. China was already closed off from my part of the world then, with no one travelling from China allowed to land in New Zealand or Australia. An older couple wearing masks in my row on the flight to Melbourne assured me that though they were Chinese they hadn't been there in years, and they were just wearing masks because they were very scared. A taxi driver in Melbourne told me not to worry about being late for my flight—when he'd flown to China recently he'd barely got to the airport 45 minutes before the flight... Oh, but that was months ago, he hadn't been to China since the problems!

I was probably reading Girl, Woman, Other before the lockdown began, and I probably finished it some time during lockdown. I'm not really sure though, and I was struggling to read anything at all in the first weeks. I couldn't focus on anything I read on my last day in the office, and I had to keep going for walks around the block to chill out. When lockdown began I woke up very early every morning, couldn't get to sleep at night, and didn't have the concentration to sustain much of anything during the day. Eventually I started feeling more normal, and made my way to the end of the book.

Girl, Woman, Other splits five chapters between 12 different people in Britain—as the blurb puts it they are mostly black and mostly women. The connections between these people gradually emerge as a web of family and professional life, friends, lovers, and tolerated acquaintances. When I think back on the book I am struck now at how a story could be split between the UK and the Caribbean, how someone could travel by train or car to distant parts of England, how none of this was remarkable until four weeks ago.

Here at home I've been strengthening and leaning on the connections I have in my life, sustained over the years, some near where I live and some very far, but all of them as distant as each other in the current world. I've made new connections, too, with people who like me have needed these connections very much. I'm glad that when I felt like I could read and enjoy reading again, this was the book that connected me back to this part of myself.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is available at Auckland Libraries as a book, ebook, or e-audiobook

Book reports