Tag Archives: Eimear McBride

Five star reads of 2014

I’ve probably read more this year than any other year since I finished uni. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog, I find I’m able to keep track of what I’m reading and I’m more inclined to try new genres and authors. It’s been a spectacular year for Australian literature, and, thanks to the almighty power of the internets, I’m more knowledgeable about Western Australian authors who are doing great things. Here’s my five star reads of 2014, according to my Goodreads account, posted in no particular order.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

Obviously not written in 2014 but one I finally got around to reading this year and spent some time carrying around with me even after I’d finished it, so much did I enjoy it.

The Ark, Annabel Smith

Inventive, chilling and entirely believable, this is science fiction at its very best. I’m interested in seeing if other authors follow Smith’s lead by embracing online content as an addition to their work, rather than a duplication.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North

Every time I think of this novel I’m reminded of the Time Traveller’s Wife but without the romance (which generally makes me cringe). It helps that this one hasn’t been made into a disappointing film as well. I and saw the world a little differently after I’d read North’s novel, which is exactly the point of art, right?

Frog Music, Emma Donoghue

I’m interested in this rating because I only gave Donoghue’s wildly celebrated Room, which I also read this year, three stars. I’m not sure if I’m being harsh on Room or generous with Frog Music but I definitely enjoyed the latter more. It got off to a shaky start but the sense of place, use of language and portrayal of gender in this historical novel was so satisfying, all the more so because of its factual basis.

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing, Eimear McBride

This is a hard read, both because of McBride’s original stream of consciousness style and because of her subject matter, which follows a young girl through a violent and sexual coming of age as she deals with her brother’s cancer. Disturbing, powerful and moving this is one I won’t forget for a long time.

A Wrong Turn At The Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson

Rawson’s thoroughly enjoyable, heartbreaking, story of a climate changed world and the power of invention is probably one of my favourite reads ever. Combining a bleak vision of a Melbourne of the future with talented story telling and emotional depth, the novel recently won the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award and deservedly so.

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

Part verse novel, part memoir, this slender work punches well above its weight. Offill’s gift with words made the isolation, loneliness and breakdown of her character so, so real. I wanted to give her a hug.

Letters to the End of Love, Yvette Walker

Speaking of hugs, Walker’s first novel is an absolute stunner, heart breaking, honest and beautifully written. You will probably cry in public and that’s okay. If anyone bumps into Walker in Perth tell her thank you from me. Thank you for writing this.

Only after compiling this list do I realise that it’s almost exclusively comprised of women. There’s three Australian authors and two of them are from WA. I hope this means I’m holding up my end of my commitment to read more Australian women writers. But it also means I could have missed something awesome. So it’s your turn. What are your five star reads from this year? Tell me why I should give them a go.

So that’s what talent looks like: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, Eimear McBride

agirlisahalfformedthingI’ve been sitting on this one for ages because honestly, I don’t know how to review it. It is remarkable and difficult and bewildering and heartbreaking. Yes, that was just a list. I told you I don’t know how to review it. I don’t even know how to title a review for it. Anything I write seems too pithy and useless a way to describe this complicated novel.

The story, about a girl growing up in Ireland with a devout mother and a brother whose childhood recovery from a brain tumour is considered miraculous, is engaging and sad and a bit distasteful. The characters are fully formed despite not ever being named. Even as her protagonist leaves home and has her own, devil-may-care adventures, McBride’s focus doesn’t shift off the microcosm of the family she is part of, something that became quite stifling to read. Violence, sexuality and faith form an oppressive mix. The detail is uncomfortable, almost too close for comfort and everything is densely packed and emotionally charged.

But this novel more than the story, it’s also the way McBride has engineered her prose. It is stream of consciousness, capturing the weave and weft of the thoughts of a wide-eyed, tearaway child gradually becoming a furious young adult desire to break the rigidity of her upbringing.

I do not want. I do not want to hear this. But suddenly it’s clawing all over me. Like flesh. Terror. Vast and alive. I think I know it. Something terrible is. The world’s about to. The world’s about to. Tip. No it isn’t. Ha. Don’t be silly. Stupid. Fine. Fine. Everything will be. Fine. Chew it lurks me. See and smell. In the corner of my eye. What. Something not so good.

And I go out and buy you presents. The very next day after this. Knicky knack things I think I hope you’ll like. Some postcards of films. Some tape of a band. Think I’ll wrap them and pack them and stick them in the post. For that’s a little. For a nice surprise. Oh my conscience badly. How is that then? I know. I send them. Those little things and I hope. They’ll stave it. Fix it up. Put it off my little love. So it does it it does not do. What? Whatever it will.

I actually don’t know how she did it. It’s amazing and at first quite difficult to read. It gave me a headache. I found it easier as I persisted and fell into the shifting, fluid style. So often novels that experiment in this way become more style than substance, but McBride manages to excel at both. It was challenging and affecting. I was heartbroken at the end. For reals.

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, Eimear McBride: five stars. Proceed at your own risk.

Read it if: you have a bit of patience, you want to see what proper writing genius looks like.

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