It’s not very often a novel comes along that so brilliantly breaks all the rules. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride is a challenging read, not only because of its bleak, taboo themes, but also due to its subversive and original writing style.
Written in first person, the novel centres on the brutal life of a girl. The story begins before her birth, with her brother, and chronicles her life through childhood, adolescence, and as a young woman. The narrator is known only as I. The You in the story is her brother, who was beset with a brain tumour as a child, darkly changing the lives of the narrator and her family.
Similar to a stream of consciousness, the writing is seemingly unpolished and disjointed. Sometimes the story is unclear, the reader only getting a sense of the events unfolding from the narrator’s half-formed thoughts, never completely understanding. Reading fiction is arguably the closest thing to walking in somebody else’s shoes, feeling their emotions, witnessing their thoughts and pain. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing achieves this better than most novels. Sometimes the reader feels uncomfortably close to the narrator; bearing witness to the violence inflicted on her as a child from her overly religious mother, feeling the injustice watching her brother’s bullies torment him in the school yard, sensing the surge of power she seizes from her wild sexual encounters, and the betrayal and pain of her sexual abuse.
In the face of all her problems, the narrator seeks to take control over her life through sex. Through her promiscuity she is able to find a way to experience a sense of control. She uses sex to numb her pain, shocking the reader with the extremes she withstands in order to escape her feelings.
Eimer McBride has been named as a major new literary talent for her award-winning debut novel. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a powerful, intense, and intimate insight into another person’s pain.