Book Review: A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing
Eimear McBride’s debut 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.
ashley | As far as debut novels go, or any novel for that matter, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride is like nothing I have ever read before. Written as a chaotic stream of consciousness, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this book. McBride’s experimental dissection of thought and conversation and prose was a bit difficult to wrap my head around at first, but the challenge was quickly accepted and the pieces started to fall into place and very quickly and a beautiful, heart breaking story started to form.
Through the novel, we follow the narrator (always referred to as I) from her childhood through to university, seeing mosaic examples of her interactions with her mother (her), her brother (you), her uncle (him) and a few other people she meets along the way. As her natural curiosities grow and she’s thrust into an untimely sexual awakening, shame and blame starts to set in and her guilt and confusion and self hatred is booming through the rest of the text. You’re right there with her through it all, but it is a hard and heavy place to be.
I can’t stop commenting on how this is written. The sporadic thoughts, incomplete sentences, the way we are just thrust into the head of our narrator, who we never fully meet or get the name of, is so bold and unique and scary, but it works. While the disconnected prose doesn’t really mature as the narrator matures, it does follow a similar growth and you start to get used to the style and it kind of becomes its own character coming of age in front of you.
This novel certainly isn’t for everyone. In fact, it took me a little while to warm up to it, but once I did, it moved so quickly and pulled me right into the chaos without any kicking or screaming. However, because of the writing, I found it very difficult to relate to or immerse myself in, which is really what I love most about reading. It’s definitely one of the more ambitious and challenging novels I’ve read in some time and for that, I applaud the efforts. The story itself isn’t that unusual, but it’s a completely new perspective and that puts this book far above many others.
The hardcover edition of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is available September 9, 2014.