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A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  7,545 ratings  ·  1,406 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
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published April 7th 2014 by Faber & Faber Fiction (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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3.47  · 
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 ·  7,545 ratings  ·  1,406 reviews


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Fionnuala
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,
...more
Ron Charles
Americans finally have a chance to see what all the fuss is about over Eimear McBride’s “A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing.” Its success has the makings of a minor literary legend. The Irish writer’s debut novel languished for nine years without a publisher until it was finally released last year by a tiny new press in Norwich, England: Gallery Beggar, “a company specifically set-up to act as a sponsor to writers who have struggled to either find or retain a publisher.” Soaring from that humble begi ...more
Patrick
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Warwick
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
...more
·Karen·
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
...more
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
...more
Teresa
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
Declan
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
Oh my emotions. My mixed emotions. My emotions mixed with dread. My dread that she wouldn't stop. Her not stopping. Stopping me from wanting to stop. And who was I when I read this book?

"The starting point was the quote from James Joyce: ‘One great part of human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot.’ "
Eimear McBride.

In wishing to extend the possibilities of language - the extra meaning that can be g
...more
Cheryl
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
...more
Dan
Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Rebecca O'regan
Jan 04, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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?!
Fiona
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
...more
Amanda
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.
Emma Flaim
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to give it 6 stars. It's just better than anything I've ever read, with the exception of Beloved by Toni Morrison. The prose is beautiful and perfect. It takes you relentlessly into the mind of the character - which is so hard - my chest hurt the whole time I was reading it - an incredible book, to have succeeded brilliantly in articulating what is kept silent.
John Wiltshire
Mar 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Shit.

Cara
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
...more
Leona
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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...
Jo
Feb 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bleh
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
...more
Nathan
For the longest time, I held stubbornly to a belief that language was limitless, and that no single piece of human existence could possibly be beyond articulation. But from the beginning, there were bits of information that refused to fit into any schema English presents. Words were not adequate whenever I had to acknowledge some strong emotion, be it love, hate or even fear. I would often find myself speechless. When parents' friend, whose kids I knew well, and who himself I respected, was arre ...more
Rhiannon
Jun 28, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
TJ
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Snoakes
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
...more
Dawnie
Mar 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Booktube review: https://goo.gl/jbqVz1

"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
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Bandit
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
Neal Adolph
I'm going to have to come back and write about this book. It is dense. Heavy. Never beautiful. It may even be important - about that I'm not sure.

April 26th

I finished reading this book last night, just before running off to a dinner celebrating my mother's retirement. It was put on by her employer, and, on top of recognizing all of the retirees from the past year, it also drew attention to the long-serving staff members. Some of whom have been with her employer for more than 35 years. It was qui
...more
Emma Flanagan
I really debated what rating to give this book. I didn't really enjoy it, yet it's impossible not to see why it's winning every award. It is expertly written, and without a doubt one of the best debut novels I have ever come across. It is for this reason I gave it three stars. If I had enjoyed it I would have given it 5.

The story follows a girl (unnamed) from the time of her birth over an approximately 20 yr period, growing up in rural Ireland in an extremely dysfunctional family, absent father
...more
Cornelius Browne
I'm in awe. A seasoned reader I may be, but Eimear McBride has given me a fresh taste of discovering literature for the first time. I'm also tired; heavy-lidded on a sunny June day. Midnight saw me reach the last 20 pages and sleep was suddenly not on the cards. Now normally I would wolf down 20 measly pages in under half an hour, but these are not ordinary pages: for every one you turn you feel as though you must surely be turning ten. Which gives some idea of the true length of this book - a 2 ...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.
“Hurt me. Until I am outside pain.” 25 likes
“I am tired. Too full of stuff I've done. Where my legs hurt where my scalp hurts. I'll not fight the thing inside me anymore. Let it eat me up. Please God. I want it to.” 19 likes
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