Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

A Girl Is a Half-Formed ThingI’m just going to throw it out there – this was nothing like what I was expecting.

I picked this up in Oxfam after a few people I know mentioning it saying that it’s just a book that you “have to read”. I do agree with that statement. It is by no stretch of the word an easy read, it’s quite difficult in fact and truthfully, I really didn’t enjoy reading it much. But I am so glad I did read this. At times it was frustrating, it was difficult and I wanted to throw it at a wall but I persevered and it’s one of those books that I think is going to haunt me a little bit.

It’s told in a somewhat more modern take on the stream of consciousness technique, it’s broken, it’s haphazard. I struggled at first, I’m a fan of a stream of consciousness but this was very broken and it was difficult to settle in to. It does hold such a power; when the narrator is desperate, you as a reader feel that desperation because the writing becomes even more disjointed and fractured and that’s just such a powerful thing for an author to accomplish. There wasn’t one gramatically correct, fully complete sentence in this book. I also maybe think that it would have been a book better read in short bursts than for a readathon as it was for me; I think maybe I would have enjoyed it, or at least taken more from it, had I read it over a longer period of time. At the same time, I think it’s a book that is best consumed all at once. I’m very conflicted on a lot of points with this.

The story itself follows a young woman (initially as a girl) growing up; it’s a coming of age story. She has a brother that has had a brain tumour and it’s really not an easy read. It’s a story that has been told endlessly but the writing style gives this it’s own, unique voice and a perspective that is very individual to it. Truthfully, I didn’t understand what was going on half the time because it was so broken.

I can understand why this was so popular with the book-award circle; it’s experimental and new and very…award-y. But as a standard, every day reader, I’m a little conflicted. In one respect, I was thinking about this more than I’ve thought about a book in a long time, I don’t feel that it’s necessarily a book there for you to just enjoy – it’s one that’s made to make you think and made to make you put it down to just take a moment and question it. It’s not a book I think I ought to read at the time I did – I’m emotionally raw and this book does take it out on you a little bit!

I’ve sat on this rating for a while; I’ve been flitting back and forth from 1 star right through to 5 because I am just so conflicted about it. Ultimately, I have to give it 4. It’s just so raw and consuming. Maybe I’m just raw at the moment, maybe this book is a little close to home but… it just had a power to it that I can’t put in to words. It’s not a book for the casual reader, you have to be patient with it because it will frustrate you. It’s dark, it’s twisty but damn it’s a good book. I read it in 2 sittings, I just threw myself in to it – partially because it was for a readathon and partially because I just didn’t really want to stop. I had this morbid fascination throughout it.

So yes, this one has had me thinking quite a lot and it’s a comfortable 4/5 (though in time, I may change my opinion)!

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