A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

26 June, 2014

Girl is a Half Formed Thing

Eimear McBride’s debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing seems to have burst onto the literary scene out of nowhere. First published by the independant Galley Beggar Press and now Faber & Faber, it has scooped the Goldsmiths Prize, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Incredible. And the reviews have all used the word ‘genius’.

And it is. Its experimental, stream of consciousness style is probably not for everyone. It’s a slim book which took a good two weeks for me to read because its staccato rhythm and incomplete sentences, often just words or a jumble of words, stick in your throat and kick out at you, screaming for help. The reading experience is as painful as the experiences of the unnamed narrator, a young girl with an older brother who survived cancer as a child. They live with their mother, their father long gone, abandoned. It’s a harsh world, the siblings trying their best to dodge bullying at school, the indifference of adults, the unwanted attentions of a dodgy relative.

McBride’s raw and visceral style is so difficult. Her themes in her novel, illness, dysfunctional families, abuse, despair and pain, are so tough to take in at times. And there were many times when I didn’t want to continue reading the book. But you want to know why the girl keeps choosing such destructive options for herself. And then you start to see. The little glimpses of why people would act in such a way. How only pain can erase pain. And that if you have been deprived of love and warmth, you would search for love wherever you can get it even if you know that there is something not quite right.

I can’t say I liked A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. It’s bleak and oh so grim. So grim that you begin to see the oppressive quality of religion as warmth. It is probably the second most depressing book I’ve read since Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. But I can’t deny that it is one of the few books which has hit me like a sledgehammer. McBride says that readers don’t need to be drip fed literature, that we want and need difficult writing and to be challenged. And she’s right. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is like nothing I’ve read before and it is brilliant.

Do also check out interviews with McBride here and here.

8 Responses to “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride”

  1. alenaslife Says:

    I appreciate the honesty. It’s on my list, but I’ll know to prepare myself for a dark journey.

  2. buriedinprint Says:

    I borrowed a copy from the library and read about 50 pages of it earlier this year and realized it was just the wrong time for me, but I have, since, picked up a copy because I do want to read it. It is tremendously well done, from the bit that I did read, and I am keen to see how she handles the rest of the novel (although I will be careful not to place it with the right kind of books alongside this time).

    • sakura Says:

      It’s certainly not a book you can read at any time although I do think it’s rewarding and also something different from the usual. Looking forward to your thoughts.

  3. Violet Says:

    A Fine Balance is fairly relentless in the misery stakes, as I remember it. I borrowed A Girl from the library but never got around to reading much of it before it had to go back. I don’t know if the experimental style works for me, but I plan on giving it another go. I was surprised that it won the prize recently.

  4. sakura Says:

    It’s certainly a shock to the literary system and I have a feeling we’ll see more similar novels now. But I’m not sure whether I would want to read more like it although I’m all up for experimental as long as it’s readable!

  5. Brona Says:

    Like Alena this is on my TBR pile just waiting for the time when I feel in the mood for such a strong, dark, disturbing read.

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