Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimar McBride

I've been resisting this much-talked-about book for a while.  I've sometimes been disappointed by 'experimental', 'literary' novels, too often finding them pretentious and over-written.  So I approached Eimar McBride's Bailey's prize-winner with caution.  I was intrigued, I must admit, and finally gave in and down-loaded a sample from Amazon fully expecting to be disappointed again.  But I was hooked from the first sentences and when the sample ended I pressed the Buy Now button without any prompting.

When I read the description of the book I never thought I'd get further than the first page - but I'm 50% through it and hurtling along!

This is Joycean stream of consciousness. Prose-poetry, written in that lyrical way that only the Irish seem to manage.  It doesn't matter if individual phrases or sentences don't make sense - you have to read with the flow and let the sense seep into you.

The girl, growing up without a father, alongside a disabled brother with a mother who can't cope, experiences life without any filters.  Rebellion, religion, reproduction - the three big R's - clatter and crash through her mind and body.

Eimar wrote it in six months, but spent nine years trying to find a publisher. I'm not surprised, given the state of publishing at the moment, that Eimar couldn't get a deal from the big 6 (or even the smaller presses).  It was published in the end by her book-seller husband and a friend (Galley Beggar Press). After the accolades and the prizes, it's been snapped up by Faber.  From Indie to Faber - now that's a story!  But it just goes to show that some of the best and most innovative work is being done in the Indie sector, or published internationally (I'm a Peirene Press addict) beyond the reach of the Big 6, who will shortly only be publishing pulp fiction and celebrity crap. Traditional publishing is in crisis.  As Anne Enright (another brilliant Irish writer) put it "Who forgot to tell Eimear McBride about the crisis we are in and about the solution to that crisis: compromise, dumb down, sell your soul?" Fortunately nobody did. Thank whatever-you-swear-by for the Indies!

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