book review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

girl is half formed thing

<em>A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing</em> by Eimear McBride. Publisher: Coffee House Press [September 2014]. Fiction. Hardcover. 228 pages.

If this novel had not won the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction I don’t think I’d have persevered in reading it. The title and the author’s story piqued by interest. A success story and the story of a writer’s resolve: McBride wrote this novel nine years ago, finally found a publisher in the small Coffee House Press and won the prestigious Bailey’s Prize. It’s a challenging read with unusual syntax—incomplete thoughts, dangling phrases– and creative style. It worked during some aspects of the novel and at other times I felt lost in muddy words and phrases.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing focuses on a young woman’s relationship with her brother and the challenges she faces due to his childhood brain injury and her mother’s fervent religious nature. Throughout her youth she’s subjected to physical, emotional and sexual trauma which impacts her in every manner. There’s teasing at school, then guilt when she moves away and attends college and he remains at home. She’s raped by her uncle as a teenager. She starts hooking up with guys in a self-destructive manner. A few years later she seeks out the uncle and they carry on an abusive sexual affair. She thinks it’s punishment for her brother’s brain damage. dark and difficult.

On the rape: “He is digging into me and me to him. He’s. Push it home as far up. In that tight spot. He is. He is. I will feel it bruising pains. And breathing deafing out my ears. My back against the chair wood. Rubbing to the bone. I. Feel him filled with. Now. He filled with. My pain.”

Describing the brother’s state, McBride writes: “And the blender goes off inside me suck my heart lungs brain in. Rip my stomach out. They meant it and this time. It’s true. I looked at you. And you seem to me your eyes are glitching off and on.”

It reads like journal entries, stream-of-consciousness or a long poem. When I got into the cadence it flowed nicely. I appreciated strangeness such as: “They polyester tight-packed womanhood aflower in pink and blue and green coats of the day has rain. Their boots in the hallway crusty with cow dung or wet muck. If in Sunday skirts, every pleat a landscape of their grown-up bodies.”  It’s sometimes dark and touching, sometimes amusing and sometimes bizarre. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing won’t appeal to every reader but it’s worth sampling.

RATING: ***/5

<em>FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Coffee House Press. </em>

purchase at Amamzon: A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing


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