Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’
By Nick P Canty, on 17 July 2014
Review by Lauren Nettles
One of my favourite professors of creative writing at my undergraduate college once instructed the class not to write a story that has never been told, since that’s nearly impossible given the amount of writing already in the world. Instead, we were taught to tell a story in a way that it has never been told before.
In theory, I understood this advice, but it didn’t truly click until reading A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. At its core, Eimear McBride’s debut novel is the story of a girl growing into young adulthood in Ireland while struggling with her sexuality, complex relationships with various members of her family, and her older brother’s harrowing recovery from a childhood brain tumour. The trials faced by the narrator are not new topics in literature, but the way McBride tells the story is incredibly unique.
A combination of stream of consciousness narration, prose poetry, and textual impressionist painting, the broken sentence fragments take some time to settle into your brain, but within a few pages, the unnamed narrator’s voice is so clear that there’s little trouble determining the speaker or the events unfolding.
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a challenging, knotty read that demands your full attention, but it’s hardly a chore to completely turn yourself over to it. The story alone is packed with genuine emotion, often disconcerting and even heartbreaking, but it’s the lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art.