This is a truly wonderful novel. Not surprisingly, Bernardine Evaristo was the winner of the Booker Prize 2019 and shortlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. The novel features 12 interconnected characters, mostly women, black and British. At first, I was put off by the way this book is written: short sentences and no full stops but after the first few pages I just could not put it down, it made perfect sense.
In her interview with The Guardian, Evaristo called her writing style as ‘fusion fiction’ and said “The form is very free-flowing and it allowed me to be inside the characters’ heads and go all over the place – the past, the present. For me, there’s always a level of experimentation”.
There are four main chapters, each of them features 3 characters, somehow connected with each other. They are of different age, sexuality and sexual identity, occupation, cultural background and class. The span of this novel goes back to the 20th century and covers generations of families, their lives and struggles. In one case there is a reference to rape. Although Evaristo mainly focuses on those 12 characters, she also brings to the story their friends, lovers and family members which makes this novel full of vibrant personalities.
Women Are Waking Up
The last chapter brings most of the characters together due to a certain event about which we learnt at the beginning of Amma’s story. These last pages showed how all of them have evolved and changed through decades of life experiences and it’s best explained in Amma’s last words: “(…) we should celebrate that many more women are reconfiguring feminism and that grassroots activism is spreading like wildfire and millions of women are waking up to the possibility of taking ownership of our world as fully-entitled human beings(…)”.
I think, Bernardine Evaristo did a wonderful job; I almost forgot it is a fiction. Every story and every character was so true, honest, strong and full of compassion. It takes the reader on a very emotional journey, very relatable and current.