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Review: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing is a short experimental first novel by Irish writer Eimear McBride.  It tells the story from before birth to young adulthood of a nameless girl and her brother, who was operated on as a young boy for a brain tumour, as a result of which he is left with learning difficulties.

The writing style is stream of consciousness, following the tradition I suppose of James Joyce, and notoriously difficult to read.

I was surprisingly disappointed with this novel.  The early childhood parts were interestingly done, as the confusing narrative style fitted quite well with the confusing experience of childhood.  But it was much harder to reconcile the primitive babble of words with that of an adolescent girl, and I had a growing suspicion that if the story were to be rewritten in plain English, there would be very little to it; it would be revealed to be slight and to say little other than child abuse is very unpleasant.

Also, some of the sentences, such as “Wrong you do not understand” unintentionally come out a bit Yoda. :-/

Would be interesting to know if I have missed something.

I really must get round to reading Ulysses.



    • It has to be said, your book is much more lucid and illuminating than this one on the subject of childhood trauma and its effects.

  1. I also had difficulties with this but as it won the women’s prize (was it still the Orange? I can’t remember.) I assumed it must be me and have been intending to go back to it and try again. Maybe I won’t bother.

    • It won flippin’ shedloads of prizes! The Bailey’s/Orange being the most prestigious. I do hope you get through it and then post what you think, because I would like to know if it is just me as well.

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