Review: A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should say at the outset that I listened to the audiobook of this, rather than read it. I don't normally make the distinction but in this case, it feels like it might be relevant.

However it's consumed this is a stunningly powerful piece of writing. The style is a fractured internal monologue that has a huge chance of toppling into maddening, baffling or alienating at any moment but is instead engaging, honest and heartrending. Our narrator could be described the same way and she is certainly damaged by her circumstances, her environment, by some choice adults, by her choices and by her beloved brother.

It is her relationship with him that is central to what is an often gruelling read. It is also this relationship that provides the most emotionally devastating scenes. For me, it was in some of the pivotal moments around her brother (that I don't want to identify for fear of spoilers) that the writer displayed her mastery. She subtly eased back on the linguistic pyrotechnics, not just to increase the emotional clout but also to reflect the stark clarity forced upon the narrator, before plunging her back into flailing confusion.

What story there is plays out in a fairly predictable fashion, perhaps depressingly so. This is very much in the tradition of helplessly watching a car skid toward a wall, as mesmerising as it is horrific.

Not an easy read, not even an easy listen, but all the better for that.

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