Every Friday I will be recommending a work of fiction or non-fiction written by a woman who has influenced and shaped my intersectional feminist perspective, with special emphasis on women of colour, women in translation, LGBTQIA women and women of different religions.
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 was announced on Wednesday evening. Although I only managed to read two books from the shortlist before the winner was announced, I felt that Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire was a well-deserving novel not only in its flawless prose but also because of its relevance to the world today. I usually try to keep up with the shortlist but I’ve been slacking the last few years. This got me thinking about the last time I read all six shortlisted novels – way back in 2014. The chosen novels that year were all stunning (minus one) in their own way, however, Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing really blew me away.
Reading back through a review on my old book blog, I wrote: ‘I can’t really describe just how A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing left me feeling once I had turned over the last page. Although I felt tired, exhausted, saddened and heartbroken, at the same time I was elated by this incredible feat of a novel. I do tend to get emotionally invested in the stories I read but never before have I felt so close to the narrator, like I am literally inside their head witnessing and experiencing their pain as it happens. This was both difficult to read but a totally new experience and something I would encourage anyone to experience for themselves’. I still remember that closeness to the narrator – in a way it was claustrophobic and stifling but it was also a rarity to experience. I’m not one for reading ‘easy’ books; I like my subject matter difficult and the prose experimental, I like to be made to feel uncomfortable and to question things I once took for granted, and that’s exactly what Eimear McBride’s debut novel did for me.
Following the life of a young woman from birth to adulthood, A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing explores the relationship she has with her brother, whose lifelong brain tumour casts a shadow over their family life. Seeping into her relationships in general, the protagonist is a confused, vulnerable and isolated individual. From family violence to sexuality, McBride explores how the mind and body respond to experiences of intense trauma whist also trying to remain intact. Giving new insight into themes that have been explored a lot in Irish literature, A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is a triumph in contemporary literature.
Eimear McBride is an Irish novelist whose debut, A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing, won the Goldsmith Prize in 2013 and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2014. However, her first novel initially took nine years to get published. Luckily Galley Beggar Press – a small, independent publisher – took a chance on her experimental style. Her second novel, The Lesser Bohemians, was published in 2016.