The Pequod Review:
Your opinion of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Elmear McBride's first novel, will likely depend on how you feel about book's fractured stream-of-consciousness prose. The story is told in the first person by a nameless (female) narrator who describes her childhood in rural Ireland. Here at about age five she describes her Sunday mornings:
Get up from that bed. Come on we’re late. Ah Mammy. It’ll do you no harm Madam to show the Lord you care. But I feel sick at mass. None of that please. There’s no fresh air in there. Get you your shoes on we haven’t got time for this.
Grannies rap their hearts. I know that from hot mass when they say Jesus’s name. My feet hurt, knees hurt on the kneeler where someone’s foot left shoe dirt there—sorry will you let me through. All the people up and down saying Christ has died Christ has risen Christ will come again. Mammy I can’t see the altar. Lift me up til my legs go dead.
It’s a dangerous place for smacking mass. Any trying to run up the aisle. Get back here. Climbing through the seats ahead. Sorry. Sit down. Sucking tissues or getting under the pew. That’s a good thump in the back.
McBride's writing style is a bit challenging initially but over time the story becomes a powerful one — about religion, independence, adolescent identity (and shame), and sexual abuse.