During the height of the pandemic last year, I went through a phase of watching book talks, interviews and opera that was all put online through the generosity of arts organisations. It was during this time that I watched Evaristo being interviewed by Sturgeon at the Edinburgh Book Festival. By this point, this book had already won the Booker, George Floyd’s dying words had brought systemic rasicm to the forefront, and people were starting to understand ‘intersectionality.’
This book deals with the lives of 12 black women and the stories of their lives. Some of them are related to another, while others are not. But regardless, each woman’s story completes a full arc. We start somewhere in the middle, getting acquainted to them only in the throes of their lives, and then a backstory unfolds. Evaristo’s prose gives these women depth and layers, and the readers are invited to partake in their most intimate thoughts.
Personally, there have been more Booker-winning-books that I have disliked than liked. However, I have to say, I really enjoyed this one. The characters felt both distant and familiar. And the combination of their identities, sexualities, ambitions and religions made for a heady concoction that never bored.
As with all books that have a plethora of characters, it is natural to side with one. And for me that was Penelope. For some reason, her story intrigued me, and I sympathised with her poor life choices and the suffering that resulted from it. You’ll have to read the book to really find your own favourite character, and until then, I’d recommend you watch the interview video too.