Review | Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

Blonde Roots

by Bernardine Evaristo

Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today? We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

Continuing my exploration of Evaristo’s back catalogue, we are onto Blonde Roots. Evaristo is without a doubt one of my favourite authors I’ve discovered this year and I’m so happy to have been able to work my way through her novels this year so I was excited for this one – however, I have to admit it was the first one that let me down!

In the style of the iconic Noughts & Crosses, Blonde Roots is an emotional story of Doris, who is a slave in a world where Black people are seen as superior and white people their slaves. For me this started off really exciting because it had such a gripping hook, and I knew what I was getting myself into when an author like Evaristo tackled a concept such as this – a heartfelt, tender, emotional story.

And that I did. And although I enjoyed reading this novel mainly because of Evaristo’s stunning and lyrical prose, and because of her signature humour that makes me laugh out loud, there was something about this that fell flat for me. In comparison to the incredible Girl, Woman, Other or the emotional rollercoaster of The Emperor’s Babe, this book just doesn’t come close. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, because I actually think that’s impossible when it comes to a writer such as Evaristo, but I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with her other novels I’ve read. I suppose there always has to be one least favourite, right?

I just didn’t connect to Doris in the way I wanted to and also I really didn’t like the middle part – I thought it was so unnecessary to go fifty or so pages from the slaveowner’s perspective, but hey, maybe that’s just me!

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts if so? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

girl woma

Girl, Woman, Other

by Bernardine Evaristo 

Literary Fiction, Contemporary

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Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

Buckle up for this one, huns—because Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is one of the best books I’ve ever read and without a doubt my favourite read of 2020 so far.

This was so thought-provoking, emotional, moving and it honestly felt like an honour just to be able to read Evaristo’s prose. There was more than just one point when I was reading this where I had to pause and take in the power of the words of what I’d just read. Simply put, this was a piece of exceptional literature. I felt defeated on several accounts because I know my own writing could never possibly compare – that might sound like a bad thing, but it’s truly a compliment of the highest regard!

Evaristo so cleverly weaves together the lives of 12 different women, some similar, and some completely different and finishes with an “after-party” that can be best described as a large quilt with 12 different patterns sewn together. I don’t know if that makes as much sense to you as it does to me, but Evaristo clearly constructed this novel with so much care and detail that it was impossible to miss.

My favourite thing about this novel was the lack of punctuation or capital letters throughout. At first I thought I’d just view it as pretentious but when I started to think about it, I think there was a power in the decision to write without. There are no full stops or capital letters that it almost seems like the importance is being stolen from the prose, much like the importance of black and queer women in our society today. They are never seen as equal as others, and I think the lack of punctuation did such a subtle but sublime job of raising this point without ever trying to imply it. Girl, Woman, Other was superb reading; a masterclass of storytelling and emotive writing.

I’ll remember this book for a long, long time. If you haven’t read this masterpiece, then I please urge you to do so. A completely deserving winner of the Booker Prize 2019, rich with humour, heart and unflinching honesty.

5 star