Where to start reading Bernardine Evaristo's books

Photo by Stuart Simpson/Penguin

Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other is one of those books it's hard to miss, and for good reason. The extraordinary Booker Prize-winning novel follows a cast of 12 characters and is told in a prose that at times feels like poetry. 

But while Girl, Woman, Other is the book that brought Evaristo to many people's attention, she has a number of other brilliant books under her belt. 

Evaristo, who is professor of creative writing at Brunel University in London, explores aspects of the African diaspora through her work. Her style is often been playful and experimental, as she blends past and present, real and imagined.

Girl, Woman, Other won Evaristo one of the biggest prizes in books, but her other work has also earned her accolades.

Here are the books from Evaristo's backlist we recommend, which will show you why she's deserving of all those prizes. 

The Emperor's Babe (2001)

Girl, Woman, Other is far from Evaristo's first foray into playing with form and structure, as demonstrated by The Emperor's Babe, which is told through verse and song.

In the novel, Evaristo takes us back to AD 211, and introduces readers to Zuleika, described as a modern girl living in an ancient world. She's has just been married off to a fat old Roman, but Zuleika – known as Zeeks – knows how to get by. At least, until she catches the eye of the Roman Emperor, the most powerful man on earth.

The Emperor's Babe, which won the Nesta Fellowship Award 2003, is a story about what it means to be a woman and survive in a thrilling and brutal world. It might be set thousands of years ago, but in true Evaristo style, its exploration of womanhood is just as relevant today. 

Mr Loverman (2013)

This novel explores Britain's older Caribbean community through 74-year-old Barrington Jedidiah Walker, who's been leading a double life. Born in Antigua, Barrington has lived in Hackney since the 1960s, where he's a flamboyant character with dapper taste in retro suits.

Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather, whose deeply religious wife Carmel thinks he's been sleeping with other women. But in reality Barrington is secretly gay, and in a relationship with his childhood friend Morris. When Barrington and Carmel's marriage starts to unravel, Barrington wants a divorce, and to finally start living with Morris.

This is an astute look at what happens when people are too scared to be their true selves, and won the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014 and the Ferro Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction 2015. 

Blonde Roots (2008)

Blonde Roots is a bold reimagining of the workings of the transatlantic slave trade, where Africans were the masters and Europeans their spaces. 

In this world lives Doris, a resident of a sleepy English village who one day is kidnapped and put on a slave ship bound for the New World. 

When she arrives on a strange tropical island, she's told her only job is to please her mistress. Doris is made personal assistant to Bwana, Chief Kaga Konata Katamba I, and it's there she sees the horrors of the sugarcane fields and the slaves who are worked to death. Doris dreams of escape, and of returning to England and the people she loves. 

In a world still grappling with the legacy of slavery, this is a satirical yet human look at a tragedy whose effects still ripple on.

Soul Tourists (2005)

At first, Soul Tourists might seem like a conventional love story. Single and in his 30s, and grieving the death of his father, Stanley Williams is wondering if there's more to life than his job. It's then he meets barmaid Jessie O’Donnell, who wants to get into her car and go on a road trip to be reunited with her son.

But this is no ordinary story of lovers going on a journey. Instead, Evaristo applies her own stamp by taking her characters on an odyssey that weaves in and out of history. Stanley and Jessie collide with historical figures including Shakespeare's mysterious Dark Lady, Pushkin and his Ethiopian great-grandfather, and the mixed-race Allessandro de' Medici of Florence.

Experimental and ambitious, Soul Tourists is a rollicking ride through history.

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