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Girl

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  4,017 ratings  ·  541 reviews
I was a girl once, but not anymore. So begins Girl, Edna O'Brien's harrowing portrayal of the young women abducted by Boko Haram. Set in the deep countryside of northeast Nigeria, this is a brutal story of incarceration, horror, and hunger; a hair-raising escape into the manifold terrors of the forest; and a descent into the labyrinthine bureaucracy and hostility awaiting ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 12th 2019)
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Barbara It's fiction. Fiction based on real events but fiction none the less. The author chooses her topic - the topic doesn't choose its author. And Edna O'B…moreIt's fiction. Fiction based on real events but fiction none the less. The author chooses her topic - the topic doesn't choose its author. And Edna O'B knows plenty about the abuse and control of women and has written about the topic many times. If we start to say that only young black women can write about young black women, where does that eventually take us? To more constraints on what women can and can't do and there's more than enough of them out there already.
If people only wrote what they knew personally, the bookshelves would be poorer for it. (less)

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Rachel
Mar 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Girl is a novel which should have been an essay.  I think Edna O'Brien's conviction and passion for the Nigerian women abducted by Boko Haram does shine through - that was the main thing I was worried about when approaching this book.  I still remain unconvinced that Edna O'Brien (a white Irish woman) was the right person to tell this story, but I'm somewhat mollified by the fact that she demonstrably did her homework and put quite a lot of research into this endeavor.  However, the result, to m ...more
Elyse  Walters
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“For mothers and daughters of northeast Nigeria”

“I WAS A GIRL ONCE, but not anymore. I smell. Blood dried and crusted all over me, and my wrapper in sheds. My insides, a morass. Hurtled through this forest that I saw, that first awful night, when I and my friends were snatched from the school”.

....”he began cursing and taunting us, calling us names, saying we were slats, prostitutes, that we should be married soon we would”.

Forced to kneel under a big tree to pray - from the Qur’an- under it fi
...more
Jenna
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
On 14 April, 2014, 276 young girls were abducted from their school by the extremist terrorist organisation Boko Haram.  The news horrified the world and yet the international community did little to help these girls.  

The author of Girl travelled to Nigeria where she met some of the survivors, those who managed against all odds to escape.  This novel is based on their accumulative experiences, combining them into the fictional character Maryam. Through her eyes we witness the horrific things tha
...more
Meike
Nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020
In this novel, Irish writer Edna O'Brien tells the story of Maryam, a young schoolgirl who is abducted by fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, tortured, raped and forced into marriage - of course, the story is based on the experiences of the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram six years ago. The great achievement of the text is that the author finds a relentless tone that forces the reader to confront the atrocities these young
...more
Hannah
I hated this. There is no way around this. I thought this was pretty damn awful and the longer I sit with it, the less I understand how this book was longlisted for the Women's Prize. I am not touching the "should O'Brien have been the person to write this particular story" controversy with a ten-foot pole except to say it would have been easier to defend that decision if the book that resulted was good in any shape or form.

O'Brien sets out to tell the story of one of the school girls abducted b
...more
Gumble's Yard
I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2020 Women’s Prize.

The book itself is relatively easy to summarise – Edna O’Brien tells the story of the schoolgirls infamously abducted by Boko Haram, that abduction leading to the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign whose social media “likes” and retweet success was tragically much more successful than its success rate in returning the girls.

O’Brien only obliquely examines the reason for that failure. Her aim is to tell the stories of the girls them
...more
Paltia
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
A story of one girl’s struggle, against all odds, to survive. Many of the details prove sickening. Even when she finds reasons to believe there are far too few people to embrace and welcome her home. A cruel and occasionally tender story of what it means to be forever on your own in a tyrannical world.
Ella
~3.5-ish Oh boy, this is going to be rougher than I'd like:

GIRL is one story created from the stories of many, and it is fiction. It feels important to state that because it would be weird to think Edna O'Brien, an old Irish lady -- and one of the greatest writers around, especially in the world of girls/women being shat upon -- wrote a nonfiction account. Instead, she fictionalizes the true story of the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Chibok School in Borno (Nigeria.) Over 275
...more
Mandy
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
The trouble with this novel is that although its intentions are admirable it doesn’t quite manage to make the protagonist come alive as a fully-fledged character. It was always going to be difficult for O’Brien to get inside the thoughts and emotions of a traumatised Nigerian teenager, and up to a point she does a good job, but for much of the book Maryam sounds too much like a western girl whose vocabulary is English (tittle-tattle) and too advanced for her age (morass). The book is clearly wel ...more
Krista
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, 2019
I was a girl once, but not any more. I smell. Blood dried and crusted all over me, and my wrapper in shreds. My insides, a morass. Hurtled through this forest that I saw, that first awful night, when I and my friends were snatched from the school.

On the night of April 14–15, 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from a government school in the town of Chiboki, Nigeria by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram (and as of today, 112 of these stolen girls are still missing). Having seen an i
...more
Julie Christine
This is as harrowing and haunting a book I have read since 2009 and Uwem Akpan's short story collection Say You're One of Them, set throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Edna O'Brien's Girl is the nominally fictional horror story of young girls enslaved by Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group that still holds sway in northeastern Nigeria.

In language spare and forthright, O'Brien writes of Maryam, a schoolgirl taken hostage, repeatedly raped and tortured, and forced into marriage by a gang of young
...more
Jill
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“I was a girl once, but not any more. I smell. Blood dried and crusted all over me, and my wrapper in shreds.”

So begins Girl, the story of our narrator, Maryam, who was abducted and raped by Boko Haram. Edna O’Brien’s goal isn’t to educate us about the ignoble history and deeds of this terrorist group or its effect on Nigerian life. There are other books that serve that purpose. It is her aim to present one girl—who could be any girl who is violated, deprived of her voice and her future, and for
...more
Kim
DNF at Page 153/230
This is a jarring reading experience about a harrowing experience.
If the question is, can an Irish author in her 80's write convincingly from the point of view of an abducted Borno school girl, I'd have to answer no.
I think there are good intentions in the attempt and it did remind me of their plight, I googled what the current situation is (unsurprisingly, it's not good and I still feel helpless to do anything).
However, I could not stop questioning each reaction, response
...more
Amanda
DNF @41%. Not working for me. I have several issues with this book but the reason for the DNF is I just really don’t like the writing style.
Ieva Andriuskeviciene
It covers 2014 story in Nigeria when Boko Haram extremism organisation captured 276 girls from the Secondary school. Voiced by one girls and her journey. She is married to her capturer has a baby and manages to run away only to find out that going back home can be even harder than staying. She is a leper, not welcome. Her baby is extremist. Will she manage to find her way back to society?
Mixed feelings that books is written by white Irish lady. She traveled to Nigeria, listened to the stories, b
...more
Moore
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
There are some good things to say about this - mainly, that it reminds us how extraordinary it is that Boko Haram could have kidnapped those girls, children....and quietly over a couple of years, a hundred or so have been returned - from what unimaginable experience the mind retreats from thinking, and after so much silence....... here is a novel, a version of a story, many elements of which come directly from speaking to Nigerians. So, that’s a thing.

And yet, I think - some questions are to be
...more
Jonathan Pool
Synopsis

“This land that is called Nigeria must be rid of the infidels and unbelievers”(12)

The horror of existence inside a Jas camp is laid before the reader in stark, no holds, descriptive terms. There's no ambiguity in the first third of this book which describes brutality and barbarism happening in the 21st century that's straight out of the worst excesses of the Middle Ages, and more recently out of Rwanda. The hideous wrongs perpetrated are then compounded by the suspicion and superstition
...more
Mel
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”
Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo.
Croatian author Slavenka Drakulic:
“... sexual violence is recognized as a weapon. We know now, as we knew even before the passage of this resolution, that rape is a kind of slow murder.”

I kneaded the knots out of my shoulders, pulled air deep beyond my intercostal muscles to prevent the hypoventilation I felt
...more
Linda
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, fiction

On April 14,2014, Boko Haram, a Nigerian jihadist group captured 276 sixteen to seventeen- year- old girls from the Chibok school in Northern Nigeria. The girls had come to to the school to sit for their physics exams and ended up as slaves of the Boko Haram, who gang raped them into submission.

Girl is a fictionalized account of the girls' ordeal told through the eyes of Maryam, a survivor. Her story begins with her capture, and time as a slave, then follows her forced marriage and entry into mo
...more
lark benobi
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable for the attempt as much as for the execution. May we all be this clear-sighted and confident about our work when we're in our eighties.
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
This book's opening is so powerful and strong that I almost feel like a review is unnecessary.

“I was a girl once, but not anymore. I smell. Blood dried and crusted all over me, and my wrapper in sheds. My insides, a morass. Hurtled through this forest that I saw, that first awful night, when I and my friends were snatched from the school”.

On 14 April, 2014, 276 young girls were abducted from their school by Boko Haram, 112 of them are still missing. And, although the news was seen on every media
...more
Marcus Hobson
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early on in this book I had a problem with the author voicing the experiences of a teenage Nigerian girl abducted by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. The problem, I discovered, was mine and not that of the book. I felt that the 89 year old Irish writer was too far removed from the young Nigerian girl. Why was that – age, nationality, background?
Well, I found that if you look more closely at what O’Brien has done during her career, you see a novel about a terrorist on the run (House of Spl
...more
Lisa
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, c21st, 19review
We had heard of them and their brute ways, but until you know something you do not know it. (Girl, by Edna O'Brien, p.85)

It was the kidnapping of the schoolgirls by the Nigerian Jihadist group Boko Haram that first made me disdain #Hashtag campaigns as useless.

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign flourished worldwide, with no less a celebrity that Michelle Obama brandishing her placard — yet it seems to have achieved nothing much at all except that the Nigerian government has been shamed into paying
...more
Robert Sheard
Review to come... I've been pulled in as a substitute judge in Round 1 of the BookTube Prize, so I won't discuss this one (or the others in this group) until the round is over.
Dervla
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While these are stories that need heard, I don’t really think a white Irish woman is the person to tell them.
Rachel
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Girl tells the story of a girl in Nigeria who is kidnapped from her school by Boko Haram and her subsequent journey back to safety.

I didn’t really get along with this one, I’m not sure what it was in the writing but it was almost as if the chapters were so short and condensed that there wasn’t much build or a pace to anything. Terrible things continue to happen but I didn’t get the emotional punch that I wanted to feel, I think because there wasn’t enough time to explore the trauma and emotion o
...more
Abby
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was a gift - and probably not one I would have chosen for myself because the idea of a book written by a white Irish woman about a teenage Nigerian girl taken by Boko Haram is pretty messed up. Nothing in that sentiment has changed for me now that I finished it.

Having read it, it is certainly well written but it lacks cohesion and a real feel of narration. I guess it was hard for the writer to be able to authentically speak this story and that comes across in the story’s shallowness.
...more
Shomeret
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have had some of the same thoughts that others have had that this story might be better told by an African woman author. It might feel more authentic. Yet OTOH, Edna O'Brien did go to Nigeria to interview Boko Haram kidnap victims. I did not detect any inauthenticity. I checked out the deity Doondari mentioned in this book and I discovered that Doondari was a Fulani creator god in Northern Nigeria. So that seemed like a valid detail.

I saw a review here on GR that complained that the protagoni
...more
Anne Goodwin
The girls are awoken in the night by men claiming to be soldiers sent to protect them from insurgents. They willingly flee the safety of their school, only to find themselves locked into a nightmare, deep in the forest of northern Nigeria as slaves of Boko Haram. Our guide through this hellish territory is gang raped, forced to learn the suras in a language she barely understands and worked until she’s dead on her feet. She finds some respite in a forced marriage to a young man who has distingui ...more
Kelvin
Feb 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree is a better novel. Read below for more information:

What pisses me off most about this book is the level of coverage it has received. So much so that readers here are praising it for doing such a great service to literature by shedding some light on an important story that no one else has told.

Well, here's a news flash for you guys, other people have told this story, actual Nigerian writers and artists, some with real lived experiences of Boko Haram terrorism. But
...more
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The Mookse and th...: 2020 Women's Prize Longlist: Girl 23 65 Apr 10, 2020 02:49PM  
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Edna O’Brien (b. 1930), an award-winning Irish author of novels, plays, and short stories, has been hailed as one of the greatest chroniclers of the female experience in the twentieth century. She is the 2011 recipient of the Frank O’Connor Prize, awarded for her short story collection Saints and Sinners. She has also received, among other honors, the Irish PEN Award for Literature, the Ulysses Me ...more

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