Friday, 25 July 2014

Book Review - A Girl is a Half Formed Thing - Eimear McBride



Beyond the obvious, beyond the fractured sentences, fragmented and repetitive. Beyond the syntax breakdown, the almost stream of conscious flow, beyond all of that what Eimear McBride really achieves is a strength and depth of emotion that rakes the back with its passions, slaps the face with its hurt before flooding the heart with its wave of feeling.

What the author does here is not so much a word collage, no Burroughs, nor does she feed her head with a flow of thoughts that bleed onto the page. What she does it to create a wonderful splash, or splashes of, colour that seems like an awfully big smudge until you pull back a bit, re-focus and see before you the range of her emotions thrown as if at random so they form into a fusion of spectral shades, shapes and colours. It is then, when viewing as a whole you see you are in fact immersed in a story full bloodied and raw.

It is not a comfortable nor an easy read and yet it is irresistible, unputdownable even if you have to work to its pace and that is one that moves at will taking you with it. The story is almost autobiographical or least that is how it feels. It is, or so the label tells us, a work of fiction. 

The central character,a girl, starts the tale aged thirteen. Her relationship with the Uncle, although unforgivable on his part, is consensual. As the years go by it turns abusive. The author does not appear to lay blame at the outset, there is no suggestion of it being an act of paedophillia even though that is what it appears later. It is the increase of less loving sex, the acceptance that it is the uncles right that starts to hurt and haunt the narrative. 

The girl to woman seems to enjoy a form of abuse as some form of punishment. It is this perversity that both intrigued and disturbed me. Bring into this the church, the cloying Catholic faith with its sordid secrets hidden behind a cloth of purple. The mother who crosses herself into senseless, undiluted belief. The poor unfortunate brother whose tumour causes him to be less than kind as the disease eats him alive. 

Both heart and mind of Eimear rustle through these words. The woman has a terribly brave heart with conviction to match. The whole novel was written over a decade ago but she stuck by what she composed never once tempted to edit or amend in an attempt to bring a more commercial edge to her work. The thrilling possibility remains that she may shortly produce another work as challenging as this. I hope so.

No wonder this novel has been winning one award after another. Yes it is experimental but surely what is more important is the way that the desire to break new grounds merges seamlessly with a bloody good read. Marvellous stuff.

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2 comments:

Cie Cheesemeister said...

The subconscious can come to crave that which is in fact destructive. People who groom young teenagers into being sexual partners commit a heinous crime. They make it very difficult for that person to ever again have positive responses to sex. The uncle character is a poisonous human being. Sadly, far too many of his kind exist.

Russell Duffy said...

A very accurate description. The girl, young, innocent but feeling the stirrings of nascent sexuality finds she has feelings for the Uncle - a fantasy that most of us go through but fortunately with responsible adults as the targets who then, kindly and without making us feel stupid, decline the clumsy advances of youth. This man, this Uncle didn't. He was at fault not the gil but she then sees herself as of having done something wrong, of having committed some moral crime. The genius of McBride's telling is that it leaves that judgement to the reader. Had I found a relative of mine had taken such liberties with my girls I think I would have killed him.