After Eimear McBride won the Bailey Woman’s Prize for Fiction for her experimental novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, it landed on my too-read list. It was the little book that could… published by a small press after years of rejection. Several well-known literary authors raved about it, as did some of the book bloggers I follow. How could I resist being part of the experience?
The narrator is a broken woman. Shattered. After an abusive childhood at the hands of her fanatically religious mother, she suffers at the hands of men. Time after time after time. The physical and emotional pain she faces never relents. One. Single. Moment. Like her spirit, disconnected fragments of prose shape this narrative.
Later it ran up me. Legs stomach knees chest up head. Like smoke in my lungs to coughed out. I’d throw up excitement. What is it? Like a nosebleed. Like a freezing pain. I felt me not me. Turning to the sun. Feel the roast of it. Like sunburn. Like a hot sunstroke. Like globs dropping in. Through my hair. Spat skin with. Blank my eyes the dazzle. Huge shatter. Me who is just new. Fallen out of the sky. What? Is lust it? That’s it. The first splinter. I. Give in scared. If I would. Stop. Him. Oh God. Is a mortal mortal sin.
It took a while for me to grasp the voice recounting raw, visceral experiences. Reading this novel was tedious. It wasn’t enjoyable. The constant tension and purposeful obscurity made it difficult for me to connect with the narrator. Having to wade blindly through bits and pieces of a person’s life to figure out what’s going on left me exhausted. As it should. McBride creates a space and a mood you cannot escape until the very last page.
If James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness style agonised you in the past, don’t even think of cracking open this book. Leave it in the bookstore and run away. If you felt intrigued by the excerpt and love writers that mold language into a fully-formed but blurred thing, then you’ll probably appreciate its artistry more than I did.
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride Thanks to Crown Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. They will publish the paperback edition in June 2015.