Just over a week ago Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-formed Thing’ won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. To do justice in a review of this incredible, unique, complicated novel feels too difficult. It is unlike anything I have ever read before and I suspect it is unlike most novels that have ever been written before.
The story is about the relationship between a brother and sister. The brother has cancer initially as a child. The effect this has on their relationship and in particular the life of his sister is the focus.
The story is narrated through the unique voice of the sister. A voice that is sometimes so loud and penetrative that I could almost feel it inside my head. The writing challenges the reader. Words tumble together tripping over one another as her inner turmoil is played out on the page. The sentences are short, sometimes as short as one word. It could feel disjointed but it isn’t, it ebbs and flows. The language is raw and gritty and even offensive, but also beautiful. At times I found myself reading sections out aloud (not when on the tube I hasten to add) to get a sense of the poetic nature of the words.
This is a book filled with strong emotion, and uncontrolled feeling. The teenage anger and confusion is real and raw. It is sometimes gruelling and painful to read but is also stirring and tender. I was reduced to tears on more than one occasion and reached the last page feeling a little battered and bruised.
To really appreciate the lyrical quality of this writing I would highly recommend listening to Eimear McBride read from the book. Listening to her is almost hypnotic. I had read much about this novel but it was only when I heard McBride speaking the words she had written herself I knew I had to read it
I would also recommend listening to Eimer McBride talk about her novel in this interview filmed at The Book Hive, a book shop in Norwich, that was instrumental in getting ‘A Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ published.
This is in no way an easy read for many of the reasons I have stated above. This book requires investment and commitment on the part of the reader. This book will make you squirm with discomfort. This book will hurt. But, this book is worth all that. This book is like no other.
Happy Weekend Reading!