Josie Mitchell

The Play’s The Thing

Girl, Woman, Other

By

Hamish Hamilton 464pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Polyphony requires balance: lines of melody that interweave, supporting each other one moment, competing for dominance the next. In her new novel, Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo employs these qualities to wonderful effect, composing a compelling work of individual voices in counterpoint.

We begin with Amma, walking towards the National Theatre, where her play The Last Amazon of Dahomey will open later that night. Years of community centres and pubs, then a call from above one Monday morning and she’s made it here. Passing homeless people on her way to the theatre, reflecting on the ironies of her new status, she looks back at the squat in King’s Cross, her ‘decades on the fringe, a renegade lobbing hand grenades at the establishment that excluded her’, producing plays like Cunning Stunts and FGM: The Musical. Today, approaching the brutalist architecture, she worries: is she selling out in her middle age? 

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