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A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
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A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  9,658 ratings  ·  1,718 reviews
Eimear McBride's debut tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman's relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic s ...more
Paperback, 205 pages
Published June 27th 2013 by Galley Beggar Press (first published June 17th 2013)
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Joje Yes, it is like a poem, but so very broken and aching. It's hardly a cozy read, and even half way through, I'm certain it won't ever be, even if much …moreYes, it is like a poem, but so very broken and aching. It's hardly a cozy read, and even half way through, I'm certain it won't ever be, even if much gets settled on the way as she claws her way to adulthood.
It feels like a fragmented poem, harder than "The Wasteland", but that's when she's super young and super hurt and confused with a half broken family, so it fits. How can she put her world together enough to put the thoughts into clear sentences, but the echoes of the cliches in the adult talk around her, which we later hear in full as she grows, is masterfully done. Even if I didn't like it either. How could one?
As she grows, the sentence bits get put into place to make sentences, hence the reading easing up as she ages. Whether that's how we talked to ourselves is something we can't know, but we do know that early language learners echo the full sentences of those around them very quickly in mind and sped up verbally in mumbling sounds, so I suspect that tells a large bit of how she was talked to.(less)

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Average rating 3.48  · 
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How did she do it? I kept asking myself that question as I read. How did the author keep me reading to the end? And not only keep me reading but keep me involved, challenged, rewarded.

If it had been a matter of plot or ending, I’d understand better. But it wasn’t. What plot there was happened early in the book and the ending was written in the beginning, written in the stitches of a head wound, written in green bile, written in a pool of amniotic fluid.

If it was the content that entertained me,
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Let’s get this out the way first: this is the most interesting, impressive and accomplished new novel I’ve read in a very long time. It is not for everyone, and it’s often a difficult read, but it’s one which I found affecting, disturbing and thought-provoking in equal measures.

The core of the book is a first person interior monologue written (or spoken) by an unnamed girl growing up in a small town in Ireland. We follow her in a broad narrative arc which runs from her birth through childhood t
Ron Charles
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ireland
That just was life.

Usually when people talk about ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writing, they mean little more than that there are a lot of run-on sentences and not many full stops. Eimear McBride is one of the very few writers to have really wrestled the English language into a new form to tell her story. Here there are many full stops, but they occur in the middle of. During. Splitting thoughts and. Off shearing different slices of idea. Sentences fracture, glance against one another and refract i
Emma Sea
Jan 19, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
read this for my 2016 Book Challenge #12: A book rec'd by someone who does not know your taste in books.

McBride is not a writer. When a writer writes a book and it's rejected for nine years, they spend those nine years writing other books and getting them out into the world. They hold that initial story close to their heart as a treasured ugly child. Maybe it gets published later in their career, maybe not. But a writer does not stop writing because one of their stories has not yet found its hom
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The comfortable and complacent
Shelves: best-of-2015
Brutal and disturbing. A Cerberus of a novel, a hellhound gone mad, one that has turned to dragging victims to the other side. It takes you in its bloody jaws, shakes and strips the skin off your cosy self-satisfaction and easy comfortable complacency, and throws you out on the shores of the Styx, exhausted, shaking, raw. Mouth dry, heart pounding.

Raw, raw. Unflinching. Heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching, visceral. It is hard, hard to read, hard to understand and harder to bear. The words on the pag
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a 5-star book, though I'm not certain it was a 5-star experience, yet I never wanted to stop reading it. The unusual (to say the least) prose is brilliant and surprisingly 'readable,' even as it narrates what the unnamed girl experiences as she experiences it (a simplistic example: the narrator doesn't sequentially open a door; she experiences the door before she opens it, so a sentence ends "...door open."). At the two junctures where I expected events to happen that did happen, the lan ...more
Mar 22, 2021 rated it liked it
A Girl is a Half Formed thing is written in non-grammatical fractured prose. It tells the story of a girl's sexual awakening, her experience of her brother's terminal illness and her relationship with her mother and the Catholic church. The first half was brilliant. The fragmented riotous prose suited the struggle of articulating the changes that take place in a young girl's body. At fourteen the narrator will lose her virginity in a taboo fashion - to her uncle. Sex will remain a squalid self-h ...more
Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an experimental novel that uses ungrammatical stream-of-consciousness sentences to describe an Irish girl’s coming of age in an undetermined time frame (1980’s maybe?). Her older brother’s travails with brain cancer is a central theme, but the story really revolves around the narrator whether she wants to admit it or not.

The opening paragraph is rather daunting for the unprepared:

For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes y
It was an epiphanic reading of Ulysses on a train ride that changed Eimear McBride’s approach to writing. What must it have been like to be in her own mind for those six intense months of writing this? Ten years it took to find a publisher. I think most publishers’ minions likely couldn’t imagine stacking this in the mid-aisle tables of Walmart/Tesco and just tossed it in the WTF pile.
“I’m having bile thoughts. Great green ones of spite and their sloppedy daughters with tongues too long to keep
Rebecca O'regan
Jan 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Absolutely awful book, average storyline but irritating and totally pointless writing style. I didn't finish it, got to page 130, just couldn't waste any more of my precious free time reading it. Pity as it had rave reviews, I'm still asking why, a promotional ploy perhaps?! ...more
Emily B
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book worked for me because I listened to the audiobook. At first I found the style difficult and wasn’t sure if I could put up with it for long. However this soon changed and listening to it rather than reading It made her stream of consciousness so fluid and lyrical.

I have to say I did find some parts rather uncomfortable and it takes a lot for me to feel that way.
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know what to say about this book. We have been buddy reading this with my Women’s Prize group (Rachel (5 stars), Callum (4 stars), Naty (currently reading), Emily (5 stars), and Sarah (in a reading slump)) and I have been periodically telling them that the book is killing me. And killing me it did. I do not know that I have ever read a book that I found this viscerally upsetting. It’s brilliant, mind, but so raw and so upsetting that I am glad to be done with it – while simultaneously wa ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is a brutal, beautiful piece of writing. It is the smartest book I've read in some time. It is intelligent. It is challenging. And it is wonderful.

I would most like to write here about my personal experiences of reading this book. I really can’t critique this book in any other way. There was nothing academic about me when I read it. It was rough and I was raw.

This book spoke to me about shame and blame and the degradation of the self. It also spoke to me a lot abou
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. This is a sample of my thoughts while reading it:

What the what am I reading? This novel is a half formed thing.
Ok in between all these jumbled up sentences is a story.
Wow this is actually brilliant.
This is a dark, dark book.
The disjointed prose is the perfect way to tell this story.
Ok I'm ready to be done with this now.
Oh my god my heart is breaking!
This book is amazing and deserving of the awards it won.
I love this book.
John Wiltshire
Mar 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: given-up-on
Womb words. Words of woman's pain. Pain in blood. Man bad blood all men. Words broken. Lines torn. Fractured like woman. Girl. Woman. All women. All women broken. Men. Break. Men take. Men tear. All. Men talking shit and women taking shit and keeping. Prizes for their pain.
Shit. Prized. Hard won from pain.

Prize. Won.


Having already read Eimear McBride's sophomore novel, The Lesser Bohemians, I thought I was prepared for A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing. And indeed, I was prepared for McBride's signature and singular prose style, a terse, choppy sort of stream of consciousness that mimics the incompleteness of thought. It's a difficult style to warm up to: I've heard that listening to this book on audio can help, but personally I tried that and as I'm not an auditory learner at all, I found it much more comprehe ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
At a certain point, this book became more about trying to PUNISH me for reading it than anything else, and I really did not care for that. Harrowing is not my cup of tea at the best of times, but when something is so obviously designed to be as excruciating as humanly possible, I just get cranky and taken out of the book. I guess it worked though? The death scene was one of the most horrific things I have ever voluntarily subjected myself to. Plus, all the rape. Rape, sadness, pain, cruelty, mor ...more
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
[4.5 stars]

I think with time this could bump up to 5 stars for me. Having just finished it, I need some time to process everything, but overall this is a very impactful novel. Not for everyone by any means—the content is extremely difficult to read about (warning for pretty intense sexual trauma/abuse), and the way she writes about grief and death is so painful. But it's also a remarkable feat. I admire McBride's writing so much. It's so unusual and weird, but at the same time feels more natural
Dua'a Behbehani
Nov 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Cold spanner. Page was. Under the stream of the. Find are. Time. Smelling green air.

Now isn't that annoying? Imagine reading a whole book constructed in this sense, sorry, this "stream of consciousness". Honestly, could you tell from what I wrote that I was selling underground tools to little green men that smell like garbage? Because if I hadn't read the back of the book I would have had no idea what half the characters were doing or would have done. It was so vague and the sentences were so m
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Genius. Harrowing. McBride breaks language apart and glues it back together again in wondrous ways. Not for lazy readers. If a man wrote this he would be lauded and famous by now and it would not have taken seven years or more to find a publisher...
A girl is a half-formed thing, was unfortunately for me, a exasperating, half-formed book. I had rather high hopes for this one, and based on mixed reviews, I thought I'd take the risk and just buy it. I'm definitely glad I didn't spend much money on it, though!
This book does not contain barely any sentences that are correctly formed. Now, while the author did this for a reason, continuing this writing method throughout the entire book, can actually irritate the reader and forces one to disenga
Jun 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
so so so awful. i hated almost every minute. pretty sure all the awards are a result of the emperor's new clothes syndrome, as if you rewrote it in English you'd find neither the plot nor the characters interesting. as it is though it's written in pathetic fragments which, painful enough the first time, you are forced to reread far too often because (surprise surprise) the meaning is often lost when you dispense with grammar and half the words you need to say something. felt like marking a never ...more
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I get why so many people hated this book or gave up on it. You signed up for a novel and instead you got this weird, experimental prose poetry. It halts and lurches. At the beginning you're thinking -- she can't keep this up for 200 pages, can she? Really? But she does! And you either buckle in or you bail. And you might bail because it's sort of lacking in some of the usual basics of a good novel, in solid character development and a carefully structured narrative. Don't think of it as a novel. ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
It's a brave author who chooses to ignore the normal conventions of written English. The novel is written in fractured phrases - it's rare to get anything like a fully-formed sentence. This is effective to imply fleeting glimpses and impressions, thoughts and feelings, but over the length of a book gets extremely wearing. Used more sparingly with more a pedestrian narrative to move the plot along I might have engaged & empathised with both the book and the character more.

At the beginning the nar
Mar 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, e-books
Booktube review:

"the beginning of teens us. thirteen me fifteen sixteen you."

"hot swamp with condensation. roll. What. I'm. Help. I'm doing here. Light the gas just and put the pot on full."

Excuse me?
I would understand what the heck everyone loves so much about this book if someone could please translate it into actual english and actual sentences.

I mean i understand -kind of- what people see in this book.

Its unique. In the writing, in the story, not so much in the p
Jon Doyle
A strange book that is nearly impossible to rate. At times this a five star masterpiece, at others (especially the beginning) I felt like throwing the book at the wall in frustration.

The opening pages of the page feel like a riddle. The sentences are fragmented and abstract, and you are left with images rather than a complete narrative. This leads to the sensation of missing something, and hence a feeling that you aren't working hard enough (or aren't intelligent enough) to understand the style
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I don't always appreciate gimmick-I-mean-experimental novels. In cases like this where the author commits to a specific style and voice all the way through, it can either become something you settle into, like with A Clockwork Orange or something you throw against the wall, like with Umbrella. Okay, those are my personal experiences. I had to start this one over because I had previously read 20 pages and not absorbed or understood anything.

This is 200 pages not any different from these two excer
Friederike Knabe
I won this book as a First Reads ARC, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada. Thank you.

What strikes you most when you read into the first pages of Eimear McBride's debut novel, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing , is her language and style. Staccato half-sentences, or just a couple of words like "I", "me", "It's a." "For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name."… followed by a full stop. In other paragraphs alliterations and repeats give the language an unusual yet poetic rhythm… It will take you a
Jan 31, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is precisely the sort of book that wins awards and acclaim (in fact it was Michael Chabon's praise on the front cover that drew me to it) and has absolutely zero real appeal. Theoretically, sure, one can see the attraction. It's so different, so original, what an authentic voice. But realistically, this is a choppily structured unpleasant uncomfortable uninteresting narrative. What was obviously meant to be constructed to convey the immediacy, falls well short of the visceral experience, in ...more
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Eimear McBride was born in Liverpool in 1976 to Irish parents. The family moved back to Ireland when she was three. She spent her childhood in Sligo and Mayo. Then, at the age of 17, she moved to London.

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