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3.80  ·  Rating details ·  731 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Girl , Edna O'Brien's hotly anticipated new novel, envisages the lives of the Boko Haram girls in a masterpiece of violence and tenderness.

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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 5th 2019)
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Kathi I have to agree. Or better yet, as Tanya pointed out, one of the women who actually lived the experience could write about it .... though that would…moreI have to agree. Or better yet, as Tanya pointed out, one of the women who actually lived the experience could write about it .... though that would be so difficult, I can't even imagine. And only when they felt the time was right and that they would be okay in the writing of it and the painful memories it would dredge up. Honestly? I feel uncomfortable with a white woman telling this story and making any profit from it whatsoever.(less)

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Elyse (semi hiatus) Walters
“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
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 that
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.
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, 276female students were kidnapped from a government school in the town ofChiboki, Nigeria by the Islamic terrorist groupBoko Haram (and as of today, 112 of these stolen girls are still missing). Having seen an
~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
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
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
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Bonnie Brody
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunning novel; powerful, horrific, and poignant.

Maryam is a schoolgirl in Nigeria when she and her classmates are abducted by the Boko Haram, a terrorist jihadi group that operated for many years in Nigeria and other abutting nations. The Boko Haram still exists but is not as large or active a group as it once was. The girls are placed on trucks and taken at gunpoint deep into the jungle to the soldiers' camp. There, they are treated brutally and violently, starved and made into
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19review, c21st, ireland
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
Oct 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Edna O’Brien’s ’Girl’ tells the story of Maryam, one of the school girls abducted by Boko Haram, beginning with her abduction, through her ordeal, all the way through to her eventual escape and the new life she must forge still marked by the horrors she experienced, both internally and by the community around her.

I know there’s been plenty of talk around this novel, about if Edna O’Brien was the right person to try and tell this story and I’m honestly not sure that’s the right discussion to be
Christina Houen
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would give it 5 stars, were it not for the annoying tense changes, which I can't see any literary reason for. Other than that, it is a brilliant, daring, courageous book. Here is my report on it, from my blog,

There is a lovely biographical report in The Observer by Sean O’Hagan on Edna O’Brien’s 2019 novel, Girl. It is an excellent article because it gives a good overview of O’Brien’s life and writing, her passions, and her frailties. It is remarkable, not only that a
Nov 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Despite the excellent narration, the book barely kept my attention. I’ll refrain from a full review until I try it again on paper. Perhaps, it will be more compelling if I read it.
Laura Newsholme
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really powerful and harrowing read focusing on a girl abducted by Boko Haram. Detailing the capture and treatment of girls by the terrorists, this is clearly difficult to read in terms of content, so I really appreciated the matter of fact tone which gave a bit of much needed distance from the horror. Interesting too was the exploration of the aftermath - the treatment of these girls as they tried to return to their families was incredibly upsetting. My primary concern however, was ...more
Patrick O'Donoghue
‘Girl’ is a fictional account of Maryam, who is kidnapped from her school by Boko Haram, taken to a remote camp in the jungle along with her school friends, and subjected to all the horrors you can imagine. O’Brien undertook research trips to Nigeria, spoke to trauma experts, UN workers, and girls who had themselves been captured by Boko Haram and had managed to escape. But what O’Brien learned was that even when the schoolgirls managed to escape from their kidnappers, they could never truly be ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Brilliant. I read both the book and listened to the audio version. The audio lends a Nigerian voice, giving local colour, which I found the richer for it.

Edna O'Brien felt deeply on learning in a fleeting news item of a young Nigerian girl found brutalised, wandering delirious in a wood, carrying her starving infant child, having been kidnapped by Boko Haram, and in that moment knew she would write her story, knew that she must.

With three years of research and travel to Nigeria, O'Brien offers
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is hard to imagine the danger that women still live in. The women that O’Brien writes about are challenged daily for food, clothing, shelter. They struggle to keep themselves and their children safe.
Edna O’Brien is one of Ireland’s most famous living authors and one of the most readable. I heard her on the radio a few weeks ago talking about her latest book and, like many, I wondered how it was possible that a woman in her 80’s had decided to go off to Nigeria and research (in great depth) the stories of the young Christian schoolgirls who were captured by Boko Haram back in 2014. I wondered, but I didn’t think she had no right to do it. I just hoped that when I’m her age I’ll have the guts ...more
Karlie Schaefer
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Will I ever know the language of love. Will I ever know home again."

Girl by Edna O'Brien is a haunting, harrowing envisioning of what happened to one of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in the middle of the night. I vividly remember when this event occurred and was so upset at the time, refusing to let myself imagine the horrors the girls were probably suffering. While this book isn't necessarily a factual recounting and the content was extremely tough at times, I forced myself to
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Despite not shying away from the book's truly nightmarish subject, O'Brien manages to find a respectful, honest and even occasionally beautiful way of telling the girl's story.
The focus of the narration is not only on the cruelty that the kidnapped girls have to endure, but also on the failure of their family and society to find a fitting or humane response to these experiences.
O'Brien uses a technique of seeming to describe an actual nightmare that unnoticably developps into a lived
Tammy V
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written story focusing on what it must have been like for one of the girls abducted by Boko Haram - a fictionalized version of the actual incident in Nigeria.

It was hard for me to read: the abuse at the hands of Boko Haram when in captivity; her flight to freedom with her child [my only quibble with the story was that I couldn't keep a grip on how old her baby was during the story scenes]; her arrival home to great public fanfare and private rejection; the abuse of ALL women as
Sherri Harte
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Difficult to read at times but so worthwhile. Amazing and powerful book. This story will stay with me for a very long time.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
i had the same wariness as the rest of us when this crossed my radar -- of all the people to tell this story, what did an elderly irish lady have to say? That feeling hasn't left me. But I still say it's a good, thoughtful book. The writing is very respectful and also lyrical. It's an important, engrossing story.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first experience of Edna O'Brien's writing and just wow. The story itself is a truly harrowing experience of one girl's survival from the moment she is abducted by Boko Haram, or as O'Brien acknowledges an amalgam of real people she met when researching for the book.
While you may wonder what right O'Brien has to tell this story in a first-person narrative, being a white older Irish woman, the right is that she can bloody write! Her shifting of reality and dream, as well as splicing of time
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Edna O’Brien’s troubling nineteenth new novel, was written after she travelled to Nigeria in her 80s to speak to girlswho had been kidnapped by the jihadist group Boko Haram. It depicts the trauma which some Nigerian schoolgirls faced when captured by the Extremist Book Haram militants. This heartbreaking account of this young girl’s abduction and journey to freedom is nothing short of brutal and Devastatingly beautiful

Girl is narrated by Maryam, a young Nigerian schoolgirl, who was abducted,
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A breathtaking work of fiction that will open your eyes.


How did the book make me feel?

Upset. GIRL is (expletive) disgusting, yet, somehow, profoundly beautiful. I read a page. I cringed. I began to quiver. I know it’s a work of fiction. But it’s not. The world portrayed within its pages exists. I don’t want it too. I want to be sheltered. How can a portion of humanity be so indoctrinated into seething revulsion? How can men be so delusional and propagandized to participate in subhuman
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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 ...more
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