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A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing (2013)

by Eimear McBride

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9205518,800 (3.64)116
"Winner of the 2013 Goldsmith Prize."Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality."-The Times Literary Supplement"An instant classic."-The Guardian"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."-London Review of Books"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"My discovery of the year was Eimear McBride's debut novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing."-Eleanor CattonEimear McBride's acclaimed debut tells the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumor, touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma.Eimear McBride was born in 1976 and grew up in Ireland. At twenty-seven she wrote A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and spent the next nine years trying to have it published"--… (more)
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» See also 116 mentions

English (54)  Dutch (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Unrelentingly dark.
Unique writing style took a few chapters to get used to before I stopped noticing it, swept away in the beauty of it.
Damn 'literary fiction' and the motherfucking Catholics. ( )
1 vote mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
This book.
I mean. This book!
It's just so brutal, and horrible and terrible, and yet beautiful and wonderful. You aren't just reading about "the girl's" life, you are experiencing them.
It's a difficult read. Hard to get used to at first as it is told in first person POV/stream of consciousness, but more stream of emotion and memory and thought. But it is also a difficult book because of the subject matter. But it is so so worth the read. You really do get sucked utterly into it. And that means that I needed to read it in private, because it feels so intimate and personal that to read it in public felt strange. So it took me a while to get through. Which, I think, is a good thing.
I can understand why people might pick it up, read the first few pages and nope out of it. But, for me, once I got into the rhythm of it I just thought it was fantastic, and I can totally understand why it won so many awards. It is just so good.
The narrator goes through so much, and her brother... I'm not going to mention any details, but I will say that this is a book that does need a trigger warning. Familial abuse. Sexual abuse. And because you are inside the narrator's head it all feels so immediate and so so real. There are so many people you just want to scream at, to ask them what the hell they think they are doing to this brother and sister!
You wish someone with an ounce of decency could come and help. It isn't that sort of book though, it offers no escape and no answers. It is the girl's experiences and that is all it is, because how could you try to offer any more than that.
It's also a book that might be more difficult for non-Irish people, or non-catholics to understand. In parts at least. Religion is such a part of this family's life, and occasionally the stream of consciousness veers into prayers. Making me so aware of how much religion has been in my own life. All those prayers that you learn off by rote while growing up, and then, if you're me, never think of again, they're still all there floating about in your head and need only the smallest prompting to get you to repeat them again. "Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy.
Hail my life, my sweetness and my hope!
To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve!
To you do we send up our sighs;
mourning and weeping in this vale of tears! " etc., etc. etc.
Yeah, I'm certainly a cultural catholic.
But if you're not Irish, and not catholic I'd still recommend that you give this book a try. As I said earlier, I can see why some won't get past the first couple of pages, but if it works for you then it is such a great, horrible, wonderful, upsetting book. ( )
1 vote Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
This was not easy to read in many ways. The story is written in stream of conscious and broken up words, no sentences, punctuation used with no rhyme or reason. It is a story of a young girl's struggles living with a brother diagnosed with a terminal cancer. In many ways this is otherwise what one has come to expect in Irish literature. The dysfunctional family, the alcohol, drugs, sex, and of course priests and wakes. Our protagonist is the younger sister and is never named. In fact, no character ever is given a name. It is also hard to get any sense of when this occurs but it is before modern phones, Walkman's exist. The story starts when our protagonist is two and goes into her young adult years. But when reading her thoughts or words, these will be mixed in with the words of other characters. It's a mess. The story is so painfully horrible that it is hard to read and no one will be able to say they enjoyed it. I do think the author captured something very unique and that is the language of a young girl growing up in a very hard situation that is deeply damaging.
The novel was written fast but it took the author years to find a publisher. It was published by Coffee House Press which is a publishing company in Minnesota. ( )
  Kristelh | Sep 27, 2020 |
A sentence is. A half-formed thing. Give. Me a break.
1 vote neal_ | Apr 10, 2020 |
I read this book for my book group, and I have to be honest, if I'd picked this up in a bookshop or library, I wouldn't have taken it away with me. Firstly, it is without doubt an amazing technical achievement, written as the stream of consciousness of a girl from before birth. Because of the style, it's necessary to concentrate extremely hard to follow events. Not a bad thing in itself, but the experiences of the central character are almost entirely negative and harrowing, relieved only by some very black humour. As it is apparent almost from the beginning of the novel, it isn't too much of a spoiler to say that the narrator has an older brother who has a brain tumour at a young age which requires surgery. This leads to consequences in her school life and her family relationships. Her relationship with her mother seems entirely negative. Events occur which result in her embarking on many sexual encounters from her mid-teens onwards. The gratification she seems to get from masochism in these experiences is one of the most disturbing aspects of the book. The cumulative effect of the descriptions of these encounters becomes almost unbearable to read by the end of the novel. The conclusion when it arrives seems inevitable. Only two of the dozen members of my book group got through the whole novel and it is very challenging. Due to the subject matter I would be reluctant to re-read it myself. ( )
  vestafan | Feb 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
It is a testament to McBride’s erudite yet brazen originality that the novel can thoughtfully speak back to some of the great texts of Western literature, while at the same time reading as though it were created entirely out of thin air.
 
McBride’s language … justifies its strangeness on every page. Her 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.
added by Widsith | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (Sep 29, 2014)
 
"Formidable," in both its meanings, best sums it up: This is a novel that initially intimidates, but after we have adapted to McBride's rhythms, its creative and emotional power renders us awe-struck.…This is brave, dizzying, risk-taking fiction of the highest order.
added by Widsith | editStar Tribune, Malcolm Forbes (Sep 20, 2014)
 
“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.
 
“A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing” is an extraordinarily demanding novel that will fascinate dozens of American readers.…You either let this strange novel teach you how to read it and grow accustomed to its impressionistic voice, or you suffer through what feels like a migraine in print. But I’m not convinced that pride of endurance is sufficient reward for completing “A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing.”
 
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For Donagh McBride
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For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name.
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"Winner of the 2013 Goldsmith Prize."Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality."-The Times Literary Supplement"An instant classic."-The Guardian"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."-London Review of Books"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"My discovery of the year was Eimear McBride's debut novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing."-Eleanor CattonEimear McBride's acclaimed debut tells the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumor, touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma.Eimear McBride was born in 1976 and grew up in Ireland. At twenty-seven she wrote A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and spent the next nine years trying to have it published"--

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