Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Posted April 15, 2014 by in Book Reviews / 11 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBrideA Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Published by Galley Beggar Press (UK) on 2013
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Pages: 224
Source: the publisher

Goodreads | Amazon

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 sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist, to read A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator's head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn't always comfortable - but it is always a revelation.

Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is moving, funny – and alarming. It is a book you will never forget.

(from the publisher's website)


Wrecked. That is how A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing left me feeling: just wrecked. The synopsis from the publisher’s website is spot on.

I attempted to start this book late one night just before I went to bed, but it was obvious from the first page that my mind was in no shape to do so. I was initially afraid that I wasn’t going to like it at all, that I wasn’t going to read past the first few pages. The writing style was confusing and not pleasant.

Then I re-started it yesterday, thinking I was going to have to force myself to read it for the sake of judging it fairly. After the first chapter or so (they’re short), I was sucked in. I learned to not think about it too closely, to just go with the flow, to let the feelings of the narration wash over me instead of focusing on the actual words. I didn’t want to put it down. I practically flew through it. I finished it today.

This isn’t an easy book to read, psychologically, emotionally, or physically. It’s an experimental novel. McBride has cut thoughts and sentences down to their bare minimum, leaving just what the reader needs in order to feel and understand the mind of the narrator. The characters are never named. Everything that happens is described by the narrator’s conscious–and sometimes maybe subconscious–mind. It has its funny moments (just a few), but it is more often gritty…brutal…frustrating…I wish there was one word to describe the intensity of it. This book took more out of me than any book has in a long time, but it was worth it.

AGiaHFT quoteA taste of what readers will find in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

As a debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is impressive. There were times when I needed to stop reading, close my eyes, and take a deep breath–the subject matter and form had a tendency to make me feel anxious and antsy–but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think those feelings are exactly what Eimear McBride was going for, and she nailed it. I have eight more books to read on the Desmond Elliott longlist so I can’t say that this one should be the winner, but it should definitely be a contender on the shortlist.



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  • The first time I read this quote, it didn’t make any sense the way it was written, but when I read it the way you described (without thinking too hard about it), it was beautiful. Is the whole book written this way? It seems very unique. Thanks for the great review!

    • Heather

      Yes, the whole book is written that way, which is why I was really nervous about it at first.

      Thank you for visiting and reading!

  • Wow. The first time I read the quote, I thought, I couldn’t do it. The second time I read it…I realized it read more like a poem…and then it clicked and it was beautiful. Still, I don’t think I could read a whole novel like that.

    • Heather

      Now that I think about it, I guess it did kind of feel like prose poetry, maybe? I got used to it quickly.

  • Holy cats, this sounds like a powerful book. The passage you posted is incredible, so poetic; it’s a little bit hard to read at first, but I imagine you get used to it fairly quickly and just go with the flow. Great review!

  • Wow. This book caught my attention after it was shortlisted for an award a few months ago. Thanks for giving us an excerpt of it. We probably wouldn’t have known what to expect otherwise. Nice review.

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  • God that title is amazing. Your review is quite good because it definitely fleshes the book out a bit. Quite intrigued to read it now.

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  • OOOH. I really wanted to read this one when I saw it over at Galley Beggar. I am intrigued.