Customer Reviews


160 Reviews
5 star:
 (44)
4 star:
 (27)
3 star:
 (17)
2 star:
 (21)
1 star:
 (51)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story without stabilisers
The first thing everyone says about this book is ‘it’s a hard read’.
It is. Unconventional in its prose style: confrontational in its subject. McBride’s fractured rendition of conversations and distinctively Irish English, plus the disregard for the norms of punctuation, dialogue tags or attribution makes the reader either work hard or...
Published 8 months ago by leekmuncher

versus
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Raw honest talent, but should come with a health warning
November reading-group book. [Spoiler alert]
The case for. Poignant evocation of sibling love in a malignant world, culminating in an excoriatingly accurate rendition of the incoherence of thought and feeling when someone you love is dying, is dead. Heartfelt. Raw, honest talent.
The case against: Should come with a health warning: don’t read in a northern...
Published 5 months ago by Bobbie


‹ Previous | 1 216 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Raw honest talent, but should come with a health warning, 25 Nov. 2014
November reading-group book. [Spoiler alert]
The case for. Poignant evocation of sibling love in a malignant world, culminating in an excoriatingly accurate rendition of the incoherence of thought and feeling when someone you love is dying, is dead. Heartfelt. Raw, honest talent.
The case against: Should come with a health warning: don’t read in a northern November or if you’re depressive. Cancer, Catholicism, child abuse, impulsive promiscuity, masochism, rape, death, loss and suicide. Relentless staccato, experimental prose-poetry. You she he she you I I I. Yes, accomplished. Yes very. Yes oh but. Cup of tea. My. Not my. Not. 203 pages of solipsistic anguish. Over. Now. Phew.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Girl is a Half-formed Thing - Eimear McBride, 1 April 2015
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The worst book I've read (or tried to read) since Will Self's Umbrella.

Impenetrable nonsense. Couldn't get past the first 3 pages. Tortured sentences, nonsense. What?

There are people who like these kinds of books, and I am not one of them. Sentences that don't make sense, sentences that are just phrases, splintered language. Not for me. This is one of those books where reading the first paragraph in a bookshop before buying is a MUST. Unnecessary work. Not a pleasurable experience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too Late, Baby, It's Too Late, 19 April 2015
The real problem with this book is that it's 80-90 years too late, a belated stab at the grand old Irish tradition of experimentalism which reached a mesmerising climax with Finnegans Wake and was gamely carried on by Flann O'Brien and the peerless Samuel Beckett. I can sympathise with the other one-star bunnies here, and I understand those (English lecturers at second-rate provincial shire colleges and the like) who take their cue from the professional critics to lavish their stars and praise. Look at the paeans garlanding this edition - one reviewer even gets "Joycean" and "Beckett" into the same sentence - with the venerable Anne Enright, godmother of the literary Mafia, intimating how the "adventurous" reader cannot fail to be moved to cosmic bliss by the words within these covers. Note that "adventurous", then, dear reader, and avoid. Ms McBride has vivid memories of growing up, increasingly complex and tediously stimulated bodily discharges and all, but I will only be convinced of her lauded greatness when the next book arrives and lives up to the hype. This one is a mundane account of mundaneness, and not a little dishonest (no wonder Eleanor Catton has her penny's worth on the front cover). Read Joyce's Counterparts in Dubliners if you want the true tragedy of our condition revealed; all the fractured syntax in Eimear's world can't deliver that.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story without stabilisers, 25 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first thing everyone says about this book is ‘it’s a hard read’.
It is. Unconventional in its prose style: confrontational in its subject. McBride’s fractured rendition of conversations and distinctively Irish English, plus the disregard for the norms of punctuation, dialogue tags or attribution makes the reader either work hard or relax.
I recommend the latter. Forget the fact standard reader-signposts are absent and realise you are not being told a story, but being drawn into an experience.

Our unnamed narrator expresses herself and her formative experiences with feeling rather than eloquence– as the author puts it, ‘balancing on the moment just before language becomes formatted thought’.

There is much to think about; familial bonds, the strictures and comforts of religion, the unfairness of disease, perceptions of self and identity as defined in the eyes of others and female sexuality and how it can be (ab)used. McBride neither shows nor tells of the love, shame and guilt battling within our protagonist. By dint of brutal poetry and risky narration, she makes the reader feel it too.

This is the third book I’ve read from independent small publishers Galley Beggar Press, and I’m so glad they exist. Otherwise books like this would not.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's more to it than the writing!, 1 Sept. 2014
By 
I had not seen any review of this book before I read it (bought it because of a bus poster) but was curious to read them afterwards. I was mildly surprised about their focus, as I thought there were more interesting discussions to be had than the style of writing. I left with open ended questions about the nature of shame, abuse, pain and sexual experience, male reactions to female sexuality, judgement, compassion, guilt (and the difference between male/female and child/adult responses to this), religion (with an added layer if you were raised Catholic), fear, wilful blindness, and the many ways that vulnerability presents ....and more. Any book that can achieve this in such a short piece of writing, that doesn't at any point read like a psychology text book, should be read.

If you are looking for a happy time, stay clear. But anyone unsure about whether to read because amazon reviews say the book a) is impossible to lose yourself in or b) has no sympathetic characters, don't be put off. I am not a fan of experimental writing in any way but after getting the hang of the first 30 pages was fully swept along and read it compulsively in one sitting. The 3 central characters are complex but not unsympathetic. When I needed more detail/clarity and wanted answers to "did he? did she? when will she tell me why? - it was to brace myself again what was happening and because I was unnerved and wanted it to be made nice and easy; that I even cared is a testament to the power of the writing. The last book I read that made me feel this way was Last Exit to Brooklyn rather than anything by Joyce.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Feeling too happy about life? Try this for a cure., 13 Nov. 2014
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Goodness, this is hard work. I almost gave up after the first couple of chapters but I'd had it too long to return for a refund so determined to plough on. It did improve as the unnamed narrator grew a little older but the prose style still irritates rather than illuminating. Emperor's New Clothes is definitely the description for this banal story of endless misery: brain tumours, rape, child abuse, a mentally ill mother ... A little light and shade would have been nice, some grey areas.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


80 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than the real thing, 11 Dec. 2013
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Paperback)
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, proudly bearing a quote from Anne Enright on the front cover of the Australian edition, reminds readers of what The Gathering might have been.

The style is experimental. Verbs are scarce - apparently Eimear McBride wanted to portray just what the girl saw - and sentences tend to be fragmentary. In particular, in the opening sections when the girl is a young child, the ideas are not even half-formed and the narrative is hard to follow. The reader has to read between the lines. Later on, as the girl passes through teenage and on to young adulthood, the ideas are clearer and the narrative has a firmer shape. This could be a relief, except that the subject matter becomes darker and darker as the narrative clears.

Growing up in rural Ireland some time ago (exact timing is not clear, probably 1980s/1990s), life has dealt the girl a modest hand. There are people in the world far worse off, but there are others who have landed up with broader horizons and happier home lives. The girl's father has died; her brother is a brain tumour survivor; her uncle is creepy and her mother lacks any strength of resolve. Despite this, the girl manages to fly the nest and study at university.

The novel does have a plot - and a slow-burning shocker it is too - but the strength is the use of this extraordinary narrative style to build a world and build a person. It is not so much about what happens to the girl as about how it affects the girl. How and whether it changes her development. This is the joy of the title - we see a young person with a distinctive personality nevertheless being moulded and shaped as she grow by those around her. Right up until the end, it's not quite clear what the final shape will be, how nature and nurture will resolve their struggle against one another.

The narrative style does come with frustrations too. There's no point pretending that there weren't times that I wanted to throw the book across the room, slowly plodding through a soupy mire of abstractions. There were times one wanted to tell Eimear to just get on with it - especially the first half of the final section feels overlong. But miraculously, it is all pulled back at the end; all the effort seems worthwhile and the flabby sections no longer feel flabby. There is great beauty in the novel, but you only appreciate it by standing back at the end and seeing the whole. Does that sound pretentious?

There have been comparisons made to Joyce and Beckett. I can see that, though this is not as abstract as Finnegan's Wake, not as narrative as Ulysses and a whole lot warmer than Beckett. If anything, it reminded me of Edna O'Brien's Country Girls or John McGahern's The Dark - provincial and unexpectedly primitive, but with bright lights of opportunity shining through at times. There is a risk that Girl is a derivative, imitative work that will be dismissed as a fraud. But right here, right now, it feels like a genuine, authentic article that represents the emergence of a monster talent. If I had doubts when I laid the book down, they are evaporating by the hour. Girl has the hallmarks of a major work of our time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful., 23 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Don't struggle with the sentence structure, just let the words sweep you along. The awful agonies and occasipnal lyrical wonders of youth are breathtaking and absorbin g. I couldn't go on but nor could I put it down. Wonderful.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Striking, difficult cauldron of pain, 12 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Another confessional story from that highly articulate island of Ireland, driven by the weight of a conventionally repressed Catholic childhood.

All the usual sins: narrow-minded poverty; cliched sham religion; a broken family; a pitiless, vulnerable girl; her brain damaged brother; and the first stirrings of tenderness bludgeoned by sexual abuse.

It has been done before. The difference here is the relentless focus inside the narrator's mind - and the power of the difficult language, which is generally undiluted by literary conventions such as regular sentences with verbs; or dialogue separated from thoughts. But it works, if you persist ... though (as with so many) the last third of the book can be repetitive.

The shocking suffering is disguised by the language. Down there in the cauldron of pain the half-formed girl begs to be hit by her uncle 'Just til my nose bleeds ... He thinks he's bad when he f***s me now. And so he is. I'm better though. In fact I am almost best.'
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and unforgiving: not one to read on a cold dark night..., 26 Sept. 2014
Relentlessly bleak, this novel tells the story of a girl growing up in Ireland in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Her brother had a brain tumour before she was born, and the consequences of this have shattered her family long before she even emerges into the world.

Tough and bright, but terribly naive, at the age of thirteen the girl embarks upon a disastrous sexual entanglement with her uncle, who is a thoroughly nasty and manipulative character. From this point on, she seeks out sexual liaisons wherever and whenever she can, seemingly with never any thought for protection from disease or pregnancy. She leaves home, and for a few pages the future looks brighter... but then her uncle re-enters her life. She then undergoes a rapid and horrifying descent to the inevitable conclusion.

I found very little to like about this book. While I have enjoyed many novels which rely stylistically on the inner thoughts of their protagonist (Woolf, Haddon, etc.), I didn't like the way this one was written. Sometimes the syntax seemed to have been warped simply to make the sentence sound odder, rather than to reflect the way the character might be thinking. This syntactic strangeness pushed me out of the book and broke the spell, in several places.

I felt desperately sorry for the main character, but was also enormously frustrated with the seemingly thoughtless choices she made. I had very little sense of the mother, who faded more and more into the background as the story went on. The brother was also a terribly sad character, whose whole being was blighted by the after-effects of his childhood tumour, and I felt the protective feelings his sister had towards him were very well portrayed - but not enough, sadly, to save the book, for me.

Meg Rosoff said once, at a book festival I attended, that she felt it was fine to write about bleak subjects in children's literature, as long as you put a 'ladder of hope' in there for the reader. I must say, I think that this should apply to adult fiction too. There was no hope in this book. It was tragic and bleak, and God knows there are enough people in this world whose lives truly are that dreadful, but I think that to get your reader to really connect with a story (for this reader, anyway), there needs to be some element of light in there. This was pure darkness, and difficult to engage with because of that. I shan't be recommending this to anyone else to read...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 216 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Paperback - 27 Jun. 2013)
Used & New from: £2.20
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews