It has taken me an astonishingly long time to finish this relatively slim volume (228 pages) by Eimear McBride. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is not an easy book to read. Described as ‘Joycean’, the language takes a while to get into to. And in terms of subject matter, well, there is nothing easy about the topics dealt with – illness, death, abuse, sexual awakening. All of this meant A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was not the type of book I could just pick up for a few pages while waiting for the pasta water to boil, or helping my daughter with her homework.
So what I’m getting at is A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is a difficult book. I found the style challenging at first, but it grew on me. I found the main character’s sexual awakening horrifying, abusive and suffused with misogyny and self-hatred. So ultimately it was the subject matters described in the book that turned me off more than the language. There is not a happy moment in the whole book. It is troubling and depressing.
But the language! It can not be described as beautiful, but there was a certain cadence to it. It was halting and confusing. It was by far the most difficult thing I’ve read in a long time and though I appreciated the challenge, I think it would have been more rewarding if I had enjoyed the story more.
Who would like this book? You want a literary challenge? Then this book is for you. It is described as Joycean for a reason. It has been described as stream of consciousness writing, which it certainly is, but the punctuation and the abruptness of it was what I found more difficult. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing has won a slew of literary prizes, including the Bailey Prize, so for those who follow the prizes it is clearly a book to know about, if not read. Good luck to if you do tackle it. I’d love to know what you thought.
Simon and Schuster Canada provided me with a copy of the book for review consideration.