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A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing Kindle Edition
Winner, Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, 2014
Winner, Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, 2014
Winner, Desmond Elliott Prize, 2014
Winner, Goldsmiths Prize, 2013
This incredible debut novel tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist.
To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator's head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn't always comfortable - but it is always a revelation.
Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is moving, funny - and alarming. It is a book you will never forget.
Eimear McBride was born in Liverpool but moved to Ireland when she was three. She grew up in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo and Castlebar, Co. Mayo, before moving to London aged 17 to study at The Drama Centre. A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is her first novel.
Ten pages in and all the bells start ringing. It explodes into your chest.' Caitlin Moran
'Eimear McBride is that old fashioned thing, a genius.' Anne Enright, Guardian
'Unforgettable...Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality.' Times Literary Supplement
'My discovery of the year was Eimear McBride's debut novel...in style very similar to Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, but the broken ellipses never feel like a gimmick or a game.' Booker Prizer winner Eleanor Catton, Guardian
'Eimear McBride's ferociously intense and stylistically challenging account of a young girl's coming-of-age in rural Ireland is an astonishing literary debut...A remarkable achievement.' Irish Independent
'My book of the year, hands down, no questions asked and I will shout it from the rooftops, is the extraordinary A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing...Like nothing else - Brava! Eimear McBride!' Kirsty Gunn, Herald Scotland
'Remarkable, harshly satisfying first novel.'London Review of Books
'This is the work of a writer with the courage to reinvent the sentence as she pleases, and the virtuosity required to pull it off.' Simon Hammond, Literary Review
'A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is a familiar Irish tale told in transfigured Irish style, a lyrical prose-poem on horror and human endurance that is - astonishingly - neither horrific nor hard to read.' Monthly
'This powerfully intense depiction of troubled girlhood is written with uncompromising brio and fidelity. After her long wait for a publisher, McBride deserves her critical success.' Weekend Australian
'A bravura performance.' Jennifer Byrne, Australian Women's Weekly
'McBride's prose might be idiosyncratic and the narrative emotionally challenging, but this is an accomplished novel. I knocked it back in two sittings and a week later I'm still reeling.' Listener
‘A dizzying feat of language, innocence and loss.’ Ashleigh Wilson, Best Books of 2016, Australian
From the Artist
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize
Winner of 2013 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize
Shortlisted for the Folio Prize
Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal's Best Books of 2014
One of Time Out New York's Ten Best Books of 2014
Selected as one of NPR's 2014 Great Reads
A New York Magazine Best Book of 2014
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2014
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal Best Books of 2014
Star Tribune Best Fiction of 2014
Electric Literature 25 Best Novels of 2014
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2014
The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014
Vanity Fair 11 Best Books of 2014
One of the most groundbreaking pieces of literature to come from Ireland, or anywhere, in recent years.--Vanity Fair "For all its experiments with form, the events of A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing are easy for readers to follow--McBride's great skill is in communicating a clear story through a complicated use of language...A remarkable book...Her language is artfully deranged to make familiar experiences strange and new but in that derangement there is vitality, even joy. The desolation of the tale is held in a gripping tension with the richness of the telling... McBride is pushing further even than Beckett did into what he called 'the syntax of weakness.' Her very words have holes in them."--The New York Review of Books That this deliberately stunted narrative language retains its power past the girl's childhood and into her adult years is a testament to McBride's verbal dexterity and tight narrative focus... A heartbreaking but stunning read, a portrait of suffering barely visible under cloudy water."--Chicago Tribune "Shattering...Be prepared to be blown away by this raw, visceral, brutally intense neomodernist first novel... While McBride's girl may be a half-formed thing, there's nothing half-formed about even her most fragmented sentences... Her American publisher writes, Don't be cowed by the first few pages of this novel. Think about how glad you were that you read past the beginning of The Sound and the Fury, or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The references to William Faulkner and James Joyce aren't outlandish; McBride's work also evokes Samuel Beckett and Edna O'Brien... McBride's writing is so alive with internal rhymes, snippets of overheard conversation, prayers and unfiltered emotion, and her narrator so feisty, that readers can't help but be pulled into the vortex of this devastating, ferociously original debut."--NPR "Brilliant...bracing, unrelenting, and audacious...Yes, this book actually gave me nightmares. And yet I did not want to stop reading it...It's this thread of love that sustains the novel and keeps it from becoming an unending tale of misery. It's also what gives weight and power to the novel's most beautifully written passages...A literary sensation."--The Millions "A future classic...[with] inevitable comparisons to the Irish tradition -- Beckett's monologues, Joyce's Molly Bloom soliloquy in Ulysses and the ontogenetic prose of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man-- and to the Irish/British female avants: Edna O'Brien, Virginia Woolf, Ann Quin, Christine Brooke-Rose. What all that praise had in common, besides that it was deserved, was the sad sense that the English-language novel had matured from modernism, and that in maturing its spirit was lost...McBride's book was a shock to that sentiment, not least because it is about that sentiment. A Girl subjects the outer language the world expects of us to the inner syntaxes that are natural to our minds, and in doing so refuses to equate universal experience with universal expression -- a false religion that has oppressed most contemporary literature, and most contemporary souls."--Joshua Cohen, New York Times Book Review "Blazingly daring...[McBride's] prose is a visceral throb, and the sentences run meanings together to produce a kind of compression in which words, freed from the tedious march of sequence, seem to want to merge with one another, as paint and musical notes can. The results are thrilling, and also thrillingly efficient. The language plunges us into the center of experiences that are often raw, unpleasant, frightening, but also vital."--James Wood, New Yorker Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is simply a brilliant book--entirely emotionally raw and at the same time technically astounding. Her prose is as haunting and moving as music, and the love story at the heart of the novel--between a sister and brother--as true and wrenching as any in literature. This is a book about everything: family, faith, sex, home, transcendence, violence, and love. I can't recommend it highly enough.--Elizabeth McCracken
Unrelenting in voice and impact.--Vanity Fair "A life told from deep down inside, beautiful, harrowing, and ultimately rewarding the way only a brilliant work of literature can be." --Michael Chabon
A virtuosic debut: subversive, passionate, and darkly alchemical. Read it and be changed.--Eleanor Catton
"Ten pages in and all the bells start ringing. It explodes into your chest." -Caitlin Moran
"A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is wild, brave, moving and darkly cryptic." -Chris Cleave
"A novel both formally innovative and psychologically unsparing. Ms. McBride's story follows the narrator from her infancy in rural Ireland to early adulthood, dwelling on two major traumas: her older brother's fight against brain cancer and her self-immolating affair with a sleazy uncle-in-law. Ms. McBride's shattered soliloquys masterfully convey the maelstrom of teenage sexuality...But softening the shrapnel-like bombardment of impressions is the narrator's tender and tragic love for her brother...The hurt of adolescence is a familiar subject for a novel, but Ms. McBride's stylistic daring makes it fresh and raw." -The Wall Street Journal
It was a really astonishing book. We felt that from the first time we read it - it stood out from the crowd. . . It's incredibly original. It has a raw energy we all responded to. It has real lyrical qualities even though the subject matter can sometimes be so shocking. --BBC [W]ritten in a Joycean stream of consciousness with an Irish lilt, and sentence fragments transmit the pervasive sense of urgency, of thoughts spinning faster than the tongue can speak. . . an unforgettable novel."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
McBride calls to mind both Joyce and Stein in her syntax and mechanics, but she brings her own emotional range to the table, as well. . . open-minded readers (specifically those not put off by the unusual language structure) will be surprised, moved and awed by this original novel. . . This is exhilarating fiction from a voice to watch.--Kirkus, starred review A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is a gorgeously odd novel. . . McBride's style, which she has called an attempt to capture the moment just before language becomes formatted thought, is the most remarkable aspect of the book. --NPR Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality--David Collard, The Times Literary Supplement It's hard to imagine another narrative that would justify this way of telling, but perhaps McBride can build another style from scratch for another style of story. That's a project for another day, when this little book is famous--Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books It is always a wonderful and satisfying thing to hear that an unknown debut author has won a major prize for writing. . . And when the news that the unknown writer winning the big prize is being published in the United States by Minneapolis' Coffee House Press, well, the news is all the more welcome. --Star Tribune "[A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is formally groundbreaking, and has been declared a work of "genius" by Man Booker winner Anne Enright. It came to widespread public attention last year, when it was awarded the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, set up to reward iconoclastic fiction. Since then, the book has been shortlisted for the Folio Prize and now longlisted for the Baileys: the establishment, in other words, is remaking itself in the image of the revolutionary." --The Telegraph Eimear McBride is that old-fashioned thing, a genius...The adventurous reader will find that they have a real book on their hands, a live one, a book that is not like any other.--Anne Enright, The Guardian "One of the most remarkable things about [A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is hearing the thoughts of a woman from the inside out. There are very few authentic literary examples of the inner workings of a woman's mind."--The Independent Ireland, "Women Are a lot Angrier and They're Not Looking for Love" The language is expressionistic, confiding, and plays havoc with the normal rules of syntax and structure. For the reader, the impression is of a voice so close to your ear that you can almost hear the breathing. --Irish Independent McBride's much praised and powerful first novel. --BBC An astonishing literary debut --The Independent "Eimear McBride very deliberately set out to recapture in her own writing what Joyce had done for her in his - opened up parts of life that couldn't be described in conventional language." --The Telegraph, "Books about Ireland: holiday reading guide" McBride was hailed as that old-fashioned thing, a genius by fellow Irish novelist Anne Enright. . . . This is a novel so emotionally overwhelming that it can be hard to finish a sentence, but also one in which each line repays thought and second reading. --The Guardian "[I]t was heartening to observe that the most talked about book of the season, at least among the people I was around, will be published in the United States by the tiny and prescient Coffee House Press. It's called A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, and it's by Eimear McBride--look out for it in September." --The New Yorker, "Page-Turner" blog, "Poetry in Seattle: an A.W.P. Diary" A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is to modern fiction what bare-knuckle fist fights are to the Marquess-of-Queensbury-ruled boxing - this is the savage and fucking hard-hitting end of the genre. . . [A]bsolutely brilliant.--The Only Way is Reading "I urge readers to step outside their literary boxes and experience this remarkable book."--Shelf Unbound "McBride has created a world, that is not just accessible but positively drags you in, surrounds and infiltrates you. Her innovative approach to language is sometimes shocking, but it's the only way that we can genuinely experience the whole of the character." --Tales From a Bruce Eye View "Amazing writing." --Library Journal, "Prepub Alert: My Fiction Picks" I'm left with great admiration for the author's skill.--Bluestocking Journal A wonderful but harrowing first person stream of consciousness. . . it truly is one of the most extraordinary things I've read in the last year. --Harper's Bazaar "At its most fundamental level this is a heartwrenching story of love, loss and an exceptionally strong sibling bond. The sadness of it was almost unbearable; it didn't remind me of grief, it felt like it. But in as far as grief can only spring from love, there is something beautiful about that, and about much of the writing." --PaperBlog "McBride has produced something unparalleled in pace and tone to the works of other Irish writers." --The Vault "Playful, rich, exciting--rarely have I read a book where I felt that the medium actually is the message." --The Star Online "Eimear McBride's victory in the Bailey Prize with A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is a heartening though rare instance of a difficult book being given a reward from mainstream publishing, not just from independent readers and reviewers." --Quadrapheme, "Why difficult literature is a good thing" "A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a challenging, knotty read that demands your full attention, but it's hardly a chore to completely turn yourself over to it. . . the lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art." --UCL Center for Publishing Applause and credit is well earned, for the voice is like nothing you've ever heard before.--Kingston Creative Writers McBride's experiment reaches back into the archaic and the incoherent: it is not so much an expression of genius as of ungenius, a dismantling of the scaffolding of thought, of culture and the Church, expressing instead the profundity of fragmentation and psychological disrepair.--The Conversation
--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B00FF0106S
- Publisher : Text Publishing (23 October 2013)
- Language : English
- File size : 508 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 227 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 229,314 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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There cannot be a sequel.
The style is experimental. Verbs are scarce - apparently Eimar McBride wanted to portray just what the girl saw - and sentences tend to be fragmentary. In particular, in the opening sections when the girl is a young child, the ideas are not even half-formed and the narrative is hard to follow. The reader has to read between the lines. Later on, as the girl passes through teenage and on to young adulthood, the ideas are clearer and the narrative has a firmer shape. This could be a relief, except that the subject matter becomes darker and darker as the narrative clears.
Growing up in rural Ireland some time ago (exact timing is not clear, probably 1980s/1990s), life has dealt the girl a modest hand. There are people in the world far worse off, but there are others who have landed up with broader horizons and happier home lives. The girl's father has died; her brother is a brain tumour survivor; her uncle is creepy and her mother lacks any strength of resolve. Despite this, the girl manages to fly the nest and study across the water.
The novel does have a plot - and a slow-burning shocker it is too - but the strength is the use of this extraordinary narrative style to build a world and build a person. It is not so much about what happens to the girl as about how it affects the girl. How and whether it changes her development. This is the joy of the title - we see a young person with a distinctive personality nevertheless being moulded and shaped as she grow by those around her. Right up until the end, it's not quite clear what the final shape will be, how nature and nurture will resolve their struggle against one another.
The narrative style does come with frustrations too. There's no point pretending that there weren't times that I wanted to throw the book across the room, slowly plodding through a soupy mire of abstractions. There were times one wanted to tell Eimar to just get on with it - especially the first half of the final section feels overlong. But miraculously, it is all pulled back at the end; all the effort seems worthwhile and the flabby sections no longer feel flabby. There is great beauty in the novel, but you only appreciate it by standing back at the end and seeing the whole. Does that sound pretentious?
There have been comparisons made to Joyce and Beckett. I can see that, though this is not as abstract as Finnegan's Wake, not as narrative as Ulysses and a whole lot warmer than Beckett. If anything, it reminded me of Edna O'Brien's Country Girls or John McGahern's The Dark - provincial and unexpectedly primitive, but with bright lights of opportunity shining through at times. There is a risk that Girl is a derivative, imitative work that will be dismissed as a fraud. But right here, right now, it feels like a genuine, authentic article that represents the emergence of a monster talent. If I had doubts when I laid the book down, they are evaporating by the hour. Girl has the hallmarks of a major work of our time.
Top reviews from other countries
Before I get into that: I read it cover to cover, compelled to turn each page, drawn into the protagonist’s story of an awful childhood transforming into an awful adulthood. McBride is clearly an accomplished writer and this book is packed with powerful writing and powerful scenes.
But, first, oh God, the gimmick of writing using the protagonists internal voice. It was incredibly consistent, which is quite some technical feat by McBridge, but for me it felt all the way through like this gimmick was just a desperate effort to make the book more interesting than it is: “yes, this is more young-girl-suffering porn, but look at the writing! The writing!!!” It didn’t feel like it brought deep insight into the character as much as it felt like smoke and mirrors.
And second, yep, here we go, another book where a girl suffers for the crime of existing and has horrible experiences until she inevitably dies. These stories having been propping up the patriarchy (by making the suffering seem inevitable and inescapable) since the Liverpool orphan comics of the 1950s and well before (and yes, they almost always have a long-suffering female character who has to take care of a male character, putting his needs before their own.)
I do accept that there is a place, and an important place, for books the remind us that this is still a world in which it often is a pretty rubbish place to be a woman. But dig below the writing and I really didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen before – depressing and predictable, no matter how beautiful the final scene.
I’m absolutely certain there will be plenty of people out there who will love this as much as I hated it, and this is part of why the world is good and there are many, many books. If you’re into romance novels or really, really loved Jane Eyre (possibly also thinking Wide Sargasso Sea was a little unfair on Rochester), you might give this a shot. If you’re a blokey sci-fi feminist like me, you’re probably better off going and reading (re-reading) the handmaid’s tale.
That's not to say it doesn't contain some masterful moments. The opening chapter, where the unnamed (and as yet unborn) narrator speaks to her older brother is dazzling. Throughout the novel, the portrayal of the relationship between the two is tremendously affecting, and wonderfully well done. The rest of the plot, though, could lifted straight from Irish literature's central casting. Abusive mother? Check. Damp house? Check? Fire-and-brimstone grandfather? Check. Pervert uncle? Check. Lashings of Catholic guilt? Check. Sodomy? Check. (The last seems de rigeur for any modern literature pertaining to be serious, although to McBride's credit, she doesn't attempt to describe it in any particularly hifalutin way, as others, naming no names, have done). I found it all a bit of a melange of misery-lit clichés, and rather wearing. OK, plot is not the most important thing in literary fiction, but if you are going to have one, make it a good one.
My greatest issue, however, is with the style. Stream of consciousness writing works brilliantly (when done well) when it's of the moment, descriptive of the half-formed thoughts we all have, before they coalesce into cogent speech - the closest writing can get, in fact, to depicting how life really feels. And when McBride does it for scenes which are set in the moment, in real time, it is indeed brilliant. But the format doesn't work for, say, describing the passage of several days in a few lines (describing starting a new school, for example, she says "I be the new girl" - why?), and it's problematic to sustain it for an entire novel, set over the course of twenty-odd years. It comes across as dislocated and, at times (sorry to say) pretentious.
I'm not disputing that McBride has huge talent, but I fear proclamations of genius may be premature. I for one will reserve judgement until I see what she does next.
I've read the first chapter which annoyed the hell out of me.
I very rarely give up on a book with the exception of 'Catcher in the Rye'(don't set me off)
Definitely not for me this writing style. I know it is a loved tome but just no.
However, its a book I will remember, and Im glad Ive read.