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A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing

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9781101903438: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing
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The dazzling, fearless debut novel that won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and the book the New York Times hails as "a future classic."

In scathing, furious, unforgettable prose, Eimear McBride tells the story of a young girl's devastating adolescence as she and her brother, who suffers from a brain tumor, struggle for a semblance of normalcy in the shadow of sexual abuse, denial, and chaos at home. Plunging readers inside the psyche of a girl isolated by her own dangerously confusing sexuality, pervading guilt, and unrelenting trauma, McBride's writing carries echoes of Joyce, O'Brien, and Woolf. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a revelatory work of fiction, a novel that instantly takes its place in the canon.

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Winner of 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize
Winner of 2013 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize
Shortlisted for the Folio Prize
Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal's Best Books of 2014
One of Time Out New York's Ten Best Books of 2014
Selected as one of NPR's 2014 Great Reads
A New York Magazine Best Book of 2014
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2014

Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal Best Books of 2014
Star Tribune
Best Fiction of 2014
Electric Literature 25 Best Novels of 2014

Largehearted Boy
Favorite Novels of 2014

The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014
Vanity Fair 11 Best Books of 2014

"One of the most groundbreaking pieces of literature to come from Ireland, or anywhere, in recent years."--Vanity Fair

"For all its experiments with form, the events of A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing are easy for readers to follow--McBride's great skill is in communicating a clear story through a complicated use of language...A remarkable book...Her language is artfully deranged to make familiar experiences strange and new but in that derangement there is vitality, even joy. The desolation of the tale is held in a gripping tension with the richness of the telling... McBride is pushing further even than Beckett did into what he called 'the syntax of weakness.' Her very words have holes in them."--The New York Review of Books

"That this deliberately stunted narrative language retains its power past the girl's childhood and into her adult years is a testament to McBride's verbal dexterity and tight narrative focus... A heartbreaking but stunning read, a portrait of suffering barely visible under cloudy water."--Chicago Tribune

"Shattering...Be prepared to be blown away by this raw, visceral, brutally intense neomodernist first novel... While McBride's girl may be a half-formed thing, there's nothing half-formed about even her most fragmented sentences... Her American publisher writes, "Don't be cowed by the first few pages of this novel. Think about how glad you were that you read past the beginning of The Sound and the Fury, or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." The references to William Faulkner and James Joyce aren't outlandish; McBride's work also evokes Samuel Beckett and Edna O'Brien... McBride's writing is so alive with internal rhymes, snippets of overheard conversation, prayers and unfiltered emotion, and her narrator so feisty, that readers can't help but be pulled into the vortex of this devastating, ferociously original debut."--NPR

"Brilliant...bracing, unrelenting, and audacious...Yes, this book actually gave me nightmares. And yet I did not want to stop reading it...It's this thread of love that sustains the novel and keeps it from becoming an unending tale of misery. It's also what gives weight and power to the novel's most beautifully written passages...A literary sensation."--The Millions

"A future classic...[with] inevitable comparisons to the Irish tradition -- Beckett's monologues, Joyce's Molly Bloom soliloquy in Ulysses and the ontogenetic prose of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man-- and to the Irish/-British female avants: Edna O'Brien, Virginia Woolf, Ann Quin, Christine Brooke-Rose. What all that praise had in common, besides that it was deserved, was the sad sense that the English-language novel had matured from modernism, and that in maturing its spirit was lost...McBride's book was a shock to that sentiment, not least because it is about that sentiment. A Girl subjects the outer language the world expects of us to the inner syntaxes that are natural to our minds, and in doing so refuses to equate universal experience with universal expression -- a false religion that has oppressed most contemporary literature, and most contemporary souls."--Joshua Cohen, New York Times Book Review

"Blazingly daring...[McBride's] prose is a visceral throb, and the sentences run meanings together to produce a kind of compression in which words, freed from the tedious march of sequence, seem to want to merge with one another, as paint and musical notes can. The results are thrilling, and also thrillingly efficient. The language plunges us into the center of experiences that are often raw, unpleasant, frightening, but also vital."--James Wood, New Yorker

"Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is simply a brilliant book--entirely emotionally raw and at the same time technically astounding. Her prose is as haunting and moving as music, and the love story at the heart of the novel--between a sister and brother--as true and wrenching as any in literature. This is a book about everything: family, faith, sex, home, transcendence, violence, and love. I can't recommend it highly enough."--Elizabeth McCracken

"Unrelenting in voice and impact."--Vanity Fair

"A life told from deep down inside, beautiful, harrowing, and ultimately rewarding the way only a brilliant work of literature can be." --Michael Chabon

"A virtuosic debut: subversive, passionate, and darkly alchemical. Read it and be changed."--Eleanor Catton

"Ten pages in and all the bells start ringing. It explodes into your chest." -Caitlin Moran

"A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is wild, brave, moving and darkly cryptic." -Chris Cleave

"A novel both formally innovative and psychologically unsparing. Ms. McBride's story follows the narrator from her infancy in rural Ireland to early adulthood, dwelling on two major traumas: her older brother's fight against brain cancer and her self-immolating affair with a sleazy uncle-in-law. Ms. McBride's shattered soliloquys masterfully convey the maelstrom of teenage sexuality...But softening the shrapnel-like bombardment of impressions is the narrator's tender and tragic love for her brother...The hurt of adolescence is a familiar subject for a novel, but Ms. McBride's stylistic daring makes it fresh and raw." -The Wall Street Journal

"It was a really astonishing book. We felt that from the first time we read it - it stood out from the crowd. . . It's incredibly original. It has a raw energy we all responded to. It has real lyrical qualities even though the subject matter can sometimes be so shocking." --BBC

"[W]ritten in a Joycean stream of consciousness with an Irish lilt, and sentence fragments transmit the pervasive sense of urgency, of thoughts spinning faster than the tongue can speak. . . an unforgettable novel."--Publishers Weekly, starred review


"McBride calls to mind both Joyce and Stein in her syntax and mechanics, but she brings her own emotional range to the table, as well. . . open-minded readers (specifically those not put off by the unusual language structure) will be surprised, moved and awed by this original novel. . . This is exhilarating fiction from a voice to watch."--Kirkus, starred review

"A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is a gorgeously odd novel. . . McBride's style, which she has called an attempt to capture "the moment just before language becomes formatted thought," is the most remarkable aspect of the book." --NPR

"Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality"--David Collard, The Times Literary Supplement

"It's hard to imagine another narrative that would justify this way of telling, but perhaps McBride can build another style from scratch for another style of story. That's a project for another day, when this little book is famous"--Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books

"It is always a wonderful and satisfying thing to hear that an unknown debut author has won a major prize for writing. . . And when the news that the unknown writer winning the big prize is being published in the United States by Minneapolis' Coffee House Press, well, the news is all the more welcome." --Star Tribune

"[A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is formally groundbreaking, and has been declared a work of "genius" by Man Booker winner Anne Enright. It came to widespread public attention last year, when it was awarded the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, set up to reward iconoclastic fiction. Since then, the book has been shortlisted for the Folio Prize and now longlisted for the Baileys: the establishment, in other words, is remaking itself in the image of the revolutionary." --The Telegraph

"Eimear McBride is that old-fashioned thing, a genius...The adventurous reader will find that they have a real book on their hands, a live one, a book that is not like any other."--Anne Enright, The Guardian

"One of the most remarkable things about [A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is hearing the thoughts of a woman from the inside out. There are very few authentic literary examples of the inner workings of a woman's mind."--The Independent Ireland, "Women Are a lot Angrier and They're Not Looking for Love"

"The language is expressionistic, confiding, and plays havoc with the normal rules of syntax and structure. For the reader, the impression is of a voice so close to your ear that you can almost hear the breathing." --Irish Independent

"McBride's much praised and powerful first novel." --BBC

"An astonishing literary debut" --The Independent

"Eimear McBride very deliberately set out to recapture in her own writing what Joyce had done for her in his - opened up parts of life that couldn't be described in conventional language." --The Telegraph, "Books about Ireland: holiday reading guide"

"McBride was hailed as "that old-fashioned thing, a genius" by fellow Irish novelist Anne Enright." . . . This is a novel so emotionally overwhelming that it can be hard to finish a sentence, but also one in which each line repays thought and second reading." --The Guardian

"[I]t was heartening to observe that the most talked about book of the season, at least among the people I was around, will be published in the United States by the tiny and prescient Coffee House Press. It's called A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, and it's by Eimear McBride--look out for it in September." --The New Yorker, "Page-Turner" blog, "Poetry in Seattle: an A.W.P. Diary"

"A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is to modern fiction what bare-knuckle fist fights are to the Marquess-of-Queensbury-ruled boxing - this is the savage and fucking hard-hitting end of the genre. . . [A]bsolutely brilliant."--The Only Way is Reading

"I urge readers to step outside their literary boxes and experience this remarkable book."--Shelf Unbound

"McBride has created a world, that is not just accessible but positively drags you in, surrounds and infiltrates you. Her innovative approach to language is sometimes shocking, but it's the only way that we can genuinely experience the whole of the character." --Tales From a Bruce Eye View

"Amazing writing." --Library Journal, "Prepub Alert: My Fiction Picks"

"I'm left with great admiration for the author's skill."--Bluestocking Journal

"A wonderful but harrowing first person stream of consciousness. . . it truly is one of the most extraordinary things I've read in the last year." --Harper's Bazaar

"At its most fundamental level this is a heartwrenching story of love, loss and an exceptionally strong sibling bond. The sadness of it was almost unbearable; it didn't remind me of grief, it felt like it. But in as far as grief can only spring from love, there is something beautiful about that, and about much of the writing." --PaperBlog

"McBride has produced something unparalleled in pace and tone to the works of other Irish writers." --The Vault

"Playful, rich, exciting--rarely have I read a book where I felt that the medium actually is the message." --The Star Online

"Eimear McBride's victory in the Bailey Prize with A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is a heartening though rare instance of a difficult book being given a reward from mainstream publishing, not just from independent readers and reviewers." --Quadrapheme, "Why difficult literature is a good thing"

"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 lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art." --UCL Center for Publishing

"Applause and credit is well earned, for the voice is like nothing you've ever heard before."--Kingston Creative Writers

"McBride's experiment reaches back into the archaic and the incoherent: it is not so much an expression of genius as of ungenius, a dismantling of the scaffolding of thought, of culture and the Church, expressing instead the profundity of fragmentation and psychological disrepair."--The Conversation


Book Description:

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride is an award-winning experimental debut novel, which tells the story of a young woman's traumatic coming-of-age in rural Ireland, as she struggles with her abusive family and clings to her relationship with her terminally ill brother.

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