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A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing (2013)

by Eimear McBride(Favorite Author)
3.53 of 5 Votes: 4
0957185324 (ISBN13: 9780957185326)
Galley Beggar Press
review 1: I wanted to read this book because it was characterized as avant garde by early reviewers. And then there was a long review in the New Yorker, of which I read only a small portion but it was enough to generate more excitement about it. It is a strange book. The narrator is a young woman who is still a girl when the story begins. Her brother, who is older than her, has a brain tumor and nearly dies from it. The pivotal moment in the book is when her uncle, her mother's brother-in-law, rapes her when she is 13. Her life from that moment becomes a living hell. She tortures herself with promiscuity and drunkenness. What comes later is even more horrific. She begins to take bigger chances in choosing whom to fornicate with and she runs into some very seedy men. Meanwhi... morele, she seems to have fallen in love with her uncle, the fiend who started her descent into hell. The prose is as horrific as the story, choppy, incoherent, and by turns lucid. The ending is tragic. The author pulls no punches; she takes the story to its inevitable ending. I had wanted to read this as a book club book but neither of the ladies were interested once they got a hint of what the book was about. I went in without any idea what the subject matter was. It was painful to read. At times this book reminded me of 'The Beans of Egypt, Maine' by Carolyn Chute. The characters in that book rarely rise above the most primal urges and emotions. Another book that comes to mind is 'Tobacco Road' by Erskine Caldwell; it also shines a light on the shallow and brutish life of sharecroppers in the 1930s. But McBride's prose takes the book to another level. It is in some ways reminiscent of Beckett, but he was actually more coherent. One of her themes is certainly the rampant sexual abuse of girls and women. But she also paints a beautiful portrait of the relationship between a brother and sister who have had to protect each other from the world around them. A true test of a book for me is whether I would reread it. Immediately after finishing this book, I would have said no way. But already, only a day later, I am not so sure. There is something strangely beautiful in the prose, like a poem that you can't explain but you understand instinctively. It was published by a press that tries to print only literature, and I can see why this book made the muster.
review 2: A few weeks ago I happened to get an email from the 'Amazon community', subject line: Books to read after 'Ulysses.' This was a first for me, Amused, I followed the link to see reader suggestions -- a mix of more Joyce, Nabokov, Melville, Faulkner, and, odd or not, 'Autobiography of a Yogi.' It was pure serendipity that had me reading Eimear McBride's brilliant novel and I'd be hard put to find a more perfect follow-up to Joyce's masterpiece. The basic substance of the story -- a girl living in the shadow of a brother with brain cancer, a family life that does not ring with motherly love, sex at its most abusive juxtaposed against the hypocrasies/contradictions/comforts of religion -- could be told in a more conventional narrative form. But McBride does so much more in letting the voice of the 'half-formed' girl shape the tone of the novel, clearly influenced by 'Ulysses.' This is not an easy read, and not for everyone; but it is one of the most powerfully original novels I've read in recent times. less
Reviews (see all)
I found this really hard going at the start, but one I got in I absolutely loved it. Revolutionary.
well. i think the ugliness of existence has been fully explored now
Dull and unaffecting saga.
Incredible journey.
A masterpiece.
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