Winner of 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction"One of the most groundbreaking pieces of literature to come from Ireland, or anywhere, in recent years." Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize Winner of 2013 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize Shortlisted for the Folio Prize One of Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 Time Out New York’s Ten Best Books of 2014 Selected as one of NPR's 2014 Great Reads A New York Magazine Best Book of 2014 A Boston Globe Best Book of 2014 Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal Best Books of 2014 Best Fiction of 2014 Star Tribune Electric Literature 25 Best Novels of 2014 Favorite Novels of 2014 Largehearted Boy The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014 Vanity Fair 11 Best Books of 2014 — Vanity Fair “For all its experiments with form, the events of A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing are easy for readers to follow—McBride’s great skill is in communicating a clear story through a complicated use of language… A remarkable book…Her language is artfully deranged to make familiar experiences strange and new but in that derangement there is vitality, even joy. The desolation of the tale is held in a gripping tension with the richness of the telling… McBride is pushing further even than Beckett did into what he called ‘the syntax of weakness.’ Her very words have holes in them.” — The New York Review of Books "That this deliberately stunted narrative language retains its power past the girl's childhood and into her adult years is a testament to McBride's verbal dexterity and tight narrative focus… A heartbreaking but stunning read, a portrait of suffering barely visible under cloudy water.”— Chicago Tribune “ Shattering… Be prepared to be blown away by this raw, visceral, brutally intense neomodernist first novel… While McBride's girl may be a half-formed thing, there's nothing half-formed about even her most fragmented sentences… Her American publisher writes, "Don't be cowed by the first few pages of this novel. Think about how glad you were that you read past the beginning of The Sound and the Fury, or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." The references to William Faulkner and James Joyce aren't outlandish; McBride's work also evokes Samuel Beckett and Edna O'Brien… McBride's writing is so alive with internal rhymes, snippets of overheard conversation, prayers and unfiltered emotion, and her narrator so feisty, that readers can't help but be pulled into the vortex of this devastating, ferociously original debut.” NPR “ Brilliant…bracing, unrelenting, and audacious…Yes, this book actually gave me nightmares. And yet I did not want to stop reading it…It’s this thread of love that sustains the novel and keeps it from becoming an unending tale of misery. It’s also what gives weight and power to the novel’s most beautifully written passages… A literary sensation.”— The Millions “ A future classic…[with] inevitable comparisons to the Irish tradition — Beckett’s monologues, Joyce’s Molly Bloom soliloquy in Ulysses and the ontogenetic prose of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man— and to the Irish/British female avants: Edna O’Brien, Virginia Woolf, Ann Quin, Christine Brooke-Rose. What all that praise had in common, besides that it was deserved, was the sad sense that the English-language novel had matured from modernism, and that in maturing its spirit was lost…McBride’s book was a shock to that sentiment, not least because it is about that sentiment. A Girl subjects the outer language the world expects of us to the inner syntaxes that are natural to our minds, and in doing so refuses to equate universal experience with universal expression — a false religion that has oppressed most contemporary literature, and most contemporary souls.”— Joshua Cohen, New York Times Book Review “ Blazingly daring…[McBride’s] prose is a visceral throb, and the sentences run meanings together to produce a kind of compression in which words, freed from the tedious march of sequence, seem to want to merge with one another, as paint and musical notes can. The results are thrilling, and also thrillingly efficient. The language plunges us into the center of experiences that are often raw, unpleasant, frightening, but also vital.”— James Wood, New Yorker "Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is simply a brilliant book—entirely emotionally raw and at the same time technically astounding. Her prose is as haunting and moving as music, and the love story at the heart of the novel—between a sister and brother—as true and wrenching as any in literature. This is a book about everything: family, faith, sex, home, transcendence, violence, and love. I can't recommend it highly enough." —Elizabeth McCracken "Unrelenting in voice and impact."— Vanity Fair “A life told from deep down inside, beautiful, harrowing, and ultimately rewarding the way only a brilliant work of literature can be.” —Michael Chabon "A virtuosic debut: subversive, passionate, and darkly alchemical. Read it and be changed." —Eleanor Catton “Ten pages in and all the bells start ringing. It explodes into your chest.” – Caitlin Moran “ A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is wild, brave, moving and darkly cryptic.” –Chris Cleave “A novel both formally innovative and psychologically unsparing. Ms. McBride's story follows the narrator from her infancy in rural Ireland to early adulthood, dwelling on two major traumas: her older brother's fight against brain cancer and her self-immolating affair with a sleazy uncle-in-law. Ms. McBride's shattered soliloquys masterfully convey the maelstrom of teenage sexuality…But softening the shrapnel-like bombardment of impressions is the narrator's tender and tragic love for her brother… The hurt of adolescence is a familiar subject for a novel, but Ms. McBride's stylistic daring makes it fresh and raw.” –The Wall Street Journal "It was a really astonishing book. We felt that from the first time we read it - it stood out from the crowd. . . It's incredibly original. It has a raw energy we all responded to. It has real lyrical qualities even though the subject matter can sometimes be so shocking." —BBC "[W]ritten in a Joycean stream of consciousness with an Irish lilt, and sentence fragments transmit the pervasive sense of urgency, of thoughts spinning faster than the tongue can speak. . . an unforgettable novel.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review "McBride calls to mind both Joyce and Stein in her syntax and mechanics, but she brings her own emotional range to the table, as well. . . open-minded readers (specifically those not put off by the unusual language structure) will be surprised, moved and awed by this original novel. . . This is exhilarating fiction from a voice to watch." —Kirkus, starred review " A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is a gorgeously odd novel. . . McBride's style, which she has called an attempt to capture "the moment just before language becomes formatted thought," is the most remarkable aspect of the book." —NPR "Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality" —David Collard, The Times Literary Supplement "It’s hard to imagine another narrative that would justify this way of telling, but perhaps McBride can build another style from scratch for another style of story. That’s a project for another day, when this little book is famous" —Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books "It is always a wonderful and satisfying thing to hear that an unknown debut author has won a major prize for writing. . . And when the news that the unknown writer winning the big prize is being published in the United States by Minneapolis' Coffee House Press, well, the news is all the more welcome." —Star Tribune “[ A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is formally groundbreaking, and has been declared a work of “genius” by Man Booker winner Anne Enright. It came to widespread public attention last year, when it was awarded the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, set up to reward iconoclastic fiction. Since then, the book has been shortlisted for the Folio Prize and now longlisted for the Baileys: the establishment, in other words, is remaking itself in the image of the revolutionary.” —The Telegraph "Eimear McBride is that old-fashioned thing, a genius…The adventurous reader will find that they have a real book on their hands, a live one, a book that is not like any other." —Anne Enright, The Guardian “One of the most remarkable things about [ A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is hearing the thoughts of a woman from the inside out. There are very few authentic literary examples of the inner workings of a woman’s mind.” —The Independent Ireland, “Women Are a lot Angrier and They’re Not Looking for Love” "The language is expressionistic, confiding, and plays havoc with the normal rules of syntax and structure. For the reader, the impression is of a voice so close to your ear that you can almost hear the breathing." —Irish Independent "McBride’s much praised and powerful first novel." —BBC "An astonishing literary debut" —The Independent “Eimear McBride very deliberately set out to recapture in her own writing what Joyce had done for her in his – opened up parts of life that couldn’t be described in conventional language.” — The Telegraph, “Books about Ireland: holiday reading guide” "McBride was hailed as "that old-fashioned thing, a genius" by fellow Irish novelist Anne Enright." . . . This is a novel so emotionally overwhelming that it can be hard to finish a sentence, but also one in which each line repays thought and second reading." —The Guardian “[I]t was heartening to observe that the most talked about book of the season, at least among the people I was around, will be published in the United States by the tiny and prescient Coffee House Press. It’s called A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, and it’s by Eimear McBride—look out for it in September.” —The New Yorker, ”Page-Turner” blog, “Poetry in Seattle: an A.W.P. Diary” " A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is to modern fiction what bare-knuckle fist fights are to the Marquess-of-Queensbury-ruled boxing – this is the savage and fucking hard-hitting end of the genre. . . [A]bsolutely brilliant." —The Only Way is Reading “I urge readers to step outside their literary boxes and experience this remarkable book.” —Shelf Unbound “McBride has created a world, that is not just accessible but positively drags you in, surrounds and infiltrates you. Her innovative approach to language is sometimes shocking, but it’s the only way that we can genuinely experience the whole of the character.” — Tales From a Bruce Eye View “Amazing writing.” —Library Journal, “Prepub Alert: My Fiction Picks” "I’m left with great admiration for the author’s skill." —Bluestocking Journal "A wonderful but harrowing first person stream of consciousness. . . it truly is one of the most extraordinary things I've read in the last year." —Harper’s Bazaar “At its most fundamental level this is a heartwrenching story of love, loss and an exceptionally strong sibling bond. The sadness of it was almost unbearable; it didn’t remind me of grief, it felt like it. But in as far as grief can only spring from love, there is something beautiful about that, and about much of the writing.” — PaperBlog “McBride has produced something unparalleled in pace and tone to the works of other Irish writers.” — The Vault “Playful, rich, exciting—rarely have I read a book where I felt that the medium actually is the message.” — The Star Online “Eimear McBride’s victory in the Bailey Prize with A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is a heartening though rare instance of a difficult book being given a reward from mainstream publishing, not just from independent readers and reviewers.” — Quadrapheme, “Why difficult literature is a good thing” “ A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a challenging, knotty read that demands your full attention, but it’s hardly a chore to completely turn yourself over to it. . . the lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art.” —UCL Center for Publishing "Applause and credit is well earned, for the voice is like nothing you’ve ever heard before." —Kingston Creative Writers "McBride’s experiment reaches back into the archaic and the incoherent: it is not so much an expression of genius as of ungenius, a dismantling of the scaffolding of thought, of culture and the Church, expressing instead the profundity of fragmentation and psychological disrepair." —The Conversation
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is the first novel by Eimear McBride, the latest in that illustrious line of Irish typographical reformers…Her book forgoes quotation marks and elides verbiage for sense, sound and sheer appearance on the page. For emphasis it occasionally wreaks havoc on capItalS and reverses letter order. It is, in all respects, a heresywhich is to say, Lord above, it's a future classic… A Girl subjects the outer language the world expects of us to the inner syntaxes that are natural to our minds, and in doing so refuses to equate universal experience with universal expressiona false religion that has oppressed most contemporary literature, and most contemporary souls.
The New York Times Book Review - Joshua Cohen
Growing up in a poor backwater town in Ireland, the narrator of McBride’s powerful debut novel, dark horse winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize, was closely attached to her older brother, both of them in league against their volatile mother. Shortly before the narrator’s birth, however, an invasive tumor had been removed from her brother’s brain, causing him to be developmentally “slow” and leaving him with a livid scar on his head and a prominent limp. The prose is permeated with imagery that convey the squalid conditions of their existence. Their father has flown, and their mother alternates between obsessive prayer and screaming rants threatening hell for impiety. The narration is written in a Joycean stream of consciousness with an Irish lilt, and sentence fragments transmit the pervasive sense of urgency, of thoughts spinning faster than the tongue can speak. When she is 13, the narrator is raped by her uncle, and the relationship continues after the narrator leaves home for college in the city. By this point she recognizes the dark streak in her nature that treats sex as punishment. She welcomes her uncle’s continuing predation, which fuels her promiscuity. Her voice reaches to an anguished pitch when her brother’s tumor returns; she feels guilt at having left him to cope with her mother’s religious mania. Some readers may be turned off at this point, depressed by the deathbed vigil or the narrator’s inevitable breakdown, but those who persevere will have read an unforgettable novel. (Sept.)
The heroine of McBride's remarkable debut novel, winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, is angry, flippant, rebellious, tender, promiscuous, hungry, risk-embracing, lonely, confused, desperate, caring, and wholly unsupported by those around her. She's every young woman trying to find herself in an unwelcoming world and very specifically a sister contending with a brain-damaged brother, particularly difficult because she is younger, unable to protect him, and flooded by the fallouta situation too little explored in literature. But as the narrative makes clear, her anguish is multiplied by the classic visitation of brutality and small-mindedness from grandfather to daughter to granddaughter, and one begins to understand why this girl (like so many others) is half-formed. And about that narrative: one often reads that a novelist's style is unique, but this is the rare case when that's actually true. The language moves in fits and starts, with incomplete sentences and stuttering phrases that capture the narrator's inner turmoil, her never being able quite to articulate what she's thinking or feeling (because who's listening?): “You said it is like nothing at all. It must be something what? And words, trace stammer of.” Throughout, she addresses her brother in the second person, ever trying to connect; over-the-top behavior and brutal sex are means not of losing herself but of feeling herself there. Verdict This book will confound readers who like their text traditional, but it's addictive and flowing and works perfectly to capture a heroine whose voice we need to hear.Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A fresh, emotionally raw debut fromIrish-born, U.K.-based author McBride.Written in halting sentences,half-sentences and dangling clauses that tumble through the text like fleeting,undigested thoughts, the story follows the female narrator as she navigates anabusive upbringing—physical, sexual and psychological—and the lingering effectsof her brother's early childhood brain trauma. McBride opens with the youngnarrator in the hospital with her mother and brother, who is undergoing surgery("You white-faced feel the needle go in. Feel fat juicy poison poison young boyskin. In your arteries. Eyeballs. Spine hands legs. Puke it cells up all daylong. No Mammy don't let them"). From there, the author follows her protagonistthrough her confused, angry adolescence, which is exacerbated by her mother'spiercing Irish-Catholic piety, and examines her struggle between appeasing herfamily and developing her own identity. Though the structure and events areroughly chronological and conventional—childhood; adolescence andexperimentation with sex, drugs and alcohol; further confusing and liberatingexperiences in college; the deaths of loved ones—the style is anything but.McBride calls to mind both Joyce and Stein in her syntax and mechanics, but shebrings her own emotional range to the table, as well. As readers, we burrowdeep within the narrator's brain as she battles to mature into a well-balancedadult amid her chaotic surroundings. In an uncomfortable but always eye-openingtale, McBride investigates the tensions among family, love, sex and religion.Lovers of straightforward storytelling will shirk, but open-minded readers(specifically those not put off by the unusual language structure) will besurprised, moved and awed by this original novel.McBride's debut garnered theinaugural Goldsmiths Prize in 2013 and the Baileys Women's Prize for fiction in2014—and deservedly so. This is exhilarating fiction from a voice to watch.