Why I Didn’t Like Girl Woman Other

okay, if you’re looking for another glowing review, this isn’t going to be it

you’ll have to find someone else to tell you what a “seminal piece of fiction” it is

because I hated this so much I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming

and look, I can fail at using punctuation too

it’s not exactly a challenge

Okay enough of that. I’m going to write this properly because I’m not a total wanker. I wouldn’t, say, write an entire book this way. That would be insufferable. That would be basically unreadable. That would make you think you’d lost your mind if you read it knowing it had won the Booker Prize… Oh wait, this book did all of those things.

Look, usually I try to soften the blow with negative reviews, but there’s no way around how much I hated this book. For me, this is just another in a long line of prizewinning books that I pored over trying to find *something* of merit. I picked it up, put it down, picked it up again, persisted once more… and still found it wanting. Despite all the praise that’s heaped on this book, I couldn’t see any hidden quality to it. I know I’m in the minority with this, but I’ve just got to come out and say it: THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!

With a million run on sentences and no punctuation, the book is near unintelligible. It comes across as mindless rambling. The style is much like listening to half a conversation a stranger is having on the phone- you vaguely know it’s important to them… but you also don’t care and wish they’d shut up because this is the quiet carriage dammit and you’re trying to mind your own business. Amazingly, on top of being pointlessly bloated, the writing also manages to be stodgy and flat at the same time. It’s almost impressive how it’s been gutted of any life. There’s no delicacy to the wording or vibrancy to the imagery (ha, what imagery?) It’s just stripped bare and a little awkward for it. Naturally this somewhat dents the reading experience, leaving very little emotional impact, despite (what little there is of) the narrative being very graphic.

Structurally, it’s all over the place. Each story is attempting to do something like Gyasi, linking individual stories into one overarching narrative. Except this can’t pull that off. Coming across as a completely disparate narrative, the strands between stories stretch thin. And this was made worse by the knowledge that they’re *supposed* to be close (friends and even family). But the way it was written meant the impression was overly fragmented and I could barely tell them apart in my head. Particularly as there was no differentiation in voice and they all used the same “lexicon”. The way they all sounded the same (and felt the same) resembled a hive mind.

Apparently, the reason I had to suffer through this is because it’s “experimental”. Though that’s not much of an excuse. Because, you see, we already have this thing called short stories and we even have this thing called short story collections! I know- incredible! It’s less original, more irritating. It’s just doing what other people have done before, but badly. It kinda reminds me of when sound sculpture was a thing (which just amounted to off-key singing).

This also managed to commit the cardinal sin of being boring on top of infuriatingly written. That’s because it’s full of political diatribes. Unless you love being lectured to by most of the “characters” in this book, you’re not likely to enjoy this read.

And, of course, as I’ve come to expect from political manifestos masquerading as literature, a lot of the opinions are logically incoherent. My favourite example was when a character insists she’s “not a victim”, after chewing our ear off for pages about how she is in fact a victim. The book was basically gaslighting me at that point. I did, however, find it amusing how it ribs Derrida (whilst basically being 99% based on his philosophy). If I didn’t hate everything else about this book, I’d give it points for that.

So, there you go. I believe this has managed to knock even my least favourite books off their pedestal. Most of the time I like to be gentle when I break up with a book, but in this case all I can say is “nah, it’s not me, IT’S YOU!” I don’t think there’s anything redeemable about it. It was insipid, sneering and stupid.

Rating: banana peel

So, dare I ask, do you plan to read this one? Or have you read it already? Let me know in the comments!

54 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Like Girl Woman Other

  1. I don’t think I’d enjoy this much either, based on your description.

    I don’t even understand the lack of punctuation thing. Others have done it. It’s not even “new” or “original” at this point. It just seems like an easy way to suggest your book is experimental or edgy, whether or not it actually is those things in other ways.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with you- I’ve seen punctuation get changed up before- it’s not a new thing. The difference, for me, over whether I find it interesting or just pretentious, is what the reason behind it is and (most importantly) how it effects and (hopefully) elevates the reading experience. This didn’t do that. It was just there for the sake of being there and actually made reading the book very unpleasant.

      Like

  2. Hahaha, I had a good laugh – excellent review! I actually really liked this book, but I do understand your criticism, especially with respect to the writing style. I wish contemporary authors would be a bit less experimental with their (lack of) punctuation. On the other hand, I loved the stories.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you did- especially since you have a different perspective 🙂
      Yeah I feel like the writing style just got in the way of anything else. But yeah, I’d prefer less experimentation for the sake of it.
      Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If an author can’t be bothered to abide by the rules of writing, then I can’t be bothered with their precious little baby.
    And this type of book winning prizes/awards is the very reason I tend to avoid books that trumpet that they have won Award X, Y or Z…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have this on my to-read list but haven’t got round to it yet. I did try to start another Booker Prize nominee from the same list- Ducks, Newburport- and I had to put it down because it’s over 1000 pages and basically one giant run-on sentence.

    Everybody says it’s amazing and so deserving of its prizes, so I was glad to see your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh! I don’t think that Ducks, Newburport would be for me- to say the least!

      Yeah I think it’s good to have some variety of reviews, cos I’m sure that this book isn’t going to be for everyone and is only going to jibe with very specific tastes! I think lots of people will go into it not knowing that and expecting to like it more. Hopefully you’ll get more out of it than I did!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Variety in book reviews are important- I just think sometimes you don’t see much of it because people are wary of balancing that line between review and critique.

        Have you read any of the other shortlisted books from that year’s booker prize? The Testaments was one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello! I did read this book and I enjoyed reading it. Nonetheless, I can also see why it is the type of book that you either love or hate. The writing style is a first barrier, so if that one is not the cup of tea of the reader, then all the other elements that follow are surely not enjoyable.

    For the people who haven’t read the book I recommend to try out the first 10-15 pages (not only the first page). And then see if you find it interesting enough to continue or you put it back on the shelf 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! Really appreciate seeing someone with another perspective! And yes, I definitely think that the style is going to be something that a lot of readers just don’t jibe with (like me).

      I think that’s a great idea! I definitely think people should just try a sample for this one (and not be stupid
      enough/baffled enough to continue, even when they don’t like it, like I was 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lol think I’ll avoid this one. 😉

    Weird stylistic stuff can sometimes work for me, but… there has to be an actual value to it. Like Anna Burns’ Milkman had that anonymous, hedging style because of its content; in another book the same style is insufferable. This one has weird punctuation because…? Difficulty for the sake of it? Interesting how much ‘experimental’ writing is really just rehashing its own set of accepted tropes rather than striking genuinely new ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I have to agree- there should be *some* reason for it! This didn’t help the book (and it didn’t help differentiate characters… which would’ve been good cos it would’ve given a strong sense of the individuality of these women). haha very true!

      Like

  7. Excellent review! And now that I read it, I won’t be reading the book (not that I was all that tempted in the first place). I think it would drive me mad. I find that I don’t have great luck with award winners. Too many books that are supposed to be “important” just fall flat for me as a reading experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I still might give this a try… eventually. I do like that you compared it to Gyasi’s Homegoing because I enjoyed that one and found it to be well-written.
    Also while I read your review I kept wondering how you feel about Hemingway because his prose is quite stripped down. Also I giggled while reading because I’ve only heard the positive. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s fair enough! Although I should say that in my opinion this failed in every way that Homegoing succeeded (I loved Homegoing too).
      Oh Hemmingway’s not for me (and I’ve made no secret of it 😉 ). I guess the difference between that and this is that, while I don’t enjoy Hemmingway, I can objectively see its quality and reading his books doesn’t make me want to scream 😉 It’s more of a flat “eh not my thing” 😉
      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Is it weird of me to say that I love how much you hate this book? LOL This is basically how I feel about ever John Steinbeck book I’ve ever been forced to read. I’ve just turned into the evil emperor from Star Wars–let the hate flow through you…. lololol

    Liked by 1 person

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