Eimear McBride wins the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Irish author Eimear McBride has won the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction with her astonishing debut novel, A Girl is Half-Formed Thing.

The chair of the judging panel, Helen Fraser, said: “This has been a fantastic year for women’s fiction, as the quality of both the long- and shortlist made clear, and I think what has emerged as the worthy winner is a really original new voice.”

McBride was hailed as “that old-fashioned thing, a genius” by fellow Irish novelist Anne Enright. Her story of a girl’s life in the shadow of sexual abuse and the brain tumour of a beloved brother took six months to write and many years to get published.

McBride had accumulated a hefty pile of rejection slips, and the manuscript had gone into the back of a drawer, when a conversation between her theatre director husband and a bookshop owner in their adopted home city, Norwich, led to it being eventually being published.

In an exclusive interview with Booktopia, McBride had this advice for aspiring writers.

“If you can think of anything else you could possibly do with your life, choose it instead. Failing that, discipline is everything.”

You can read the full interview here

Grab a copy of A Girl is Half-Formed Thing here

A Girl is Half-Formed Thing

by Eimear McBride

This incredible debut novel tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour.

Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist.

To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is moving, funny – and alarming. It is a book you will never forget.

 

Grab a copy of A Girl is Half-Formed Thing here

 

The 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids… Read More


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. Ifemelu – beautiful, self-assured-departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home… Read More


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portrayal of lives undone and forged anew, The Lowland is a deeply felt novel of family ties that entangle and fray in ways unforeseen and unrevealed, of ties that ineluctably define who we are. With all the hallmarks of Jhumpa Lahiri’s achingly poignant, exquisitely empathetic story-telling, this is her most devastating work of fiction to date… Read More


The Undertaking by Audrey Magee A stunning, riveting debut novel in the tradition of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room, The Undertaking shines an intense light on history and illuminates the lives of those caught up in one of its darkest chapters… Read More


 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate… Read More

Shortlist Judges

Eimear McBride, author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here for more details or to buy A Girl is a Half-Formed ThingThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Eimear McBride

author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing

Ten Terrifying Questions

 ———————-

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Liverpool to Irish parents and moved back to Ireland just before my third birthday. I was raised in the west, first in the village of Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, then Castlebar, Co. Mayo. At seventeen I moved to London to study acting at Drama Centre.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve I wanted to be an actress, mostly because I was a terrible show-off. At eighteen I wanted to be an actress and a writer because I was interested in immortality.

At thirty I wanted to be a writer because I knew that –despite all the rejection letters- it was the best I’d ever make of myself.

Author: Eimear McBride3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That everything would work out alright.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

The Stolen Child by W.B Yeats. Growing up in Sligo Yeats was everywhere. It was the first poem I learned at school and my first experience of the power of well-combined words. It sent chills down my spine and still does today.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which I discovered on an old cassette around fourteen and played into ribbons. I’d never heard anything like it before and found it’s alien combination of savagery and beauty both overwhelming and, later, highly instructive.

Around twenty-five I finally read Ulysses. It completely changed my attitude towards writing because within 20mins of starting, I understood that every door was now open.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I never considered any other kind of writing, even as a small child it was the only form I was interested in. I eventually chose it over acting because sitting alone for hours is my idea of heaven.

Click here for more details or to buy A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing6. Please tell us about your novel.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is set in Ireland. It’s about the relationship between a girl and her brother, who is living with the after effects of a brain tumour. The narrative follows her to the age of twenty and explores themes of religious fanaticism, personal liberty and sexual chaos. I was also interested in exploring the linguistic possibilities of a sort-of ‘stream of pre-consciousness’ perspective, so the punctuation and structure of the sentences are a little unusual. At its heart though, it’s a story about love and loss.

Publisher’s blurb:

This incredible début novel tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist.

To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is moving, funny – and alarming. It is a book you will never forget.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

That’s a hard question to answer. I suppose, mostly, that they won’t think they’ve wasted their time and that, alone as we all are in the hardness of life, there is still beauty to be found.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

It has to be James Joyce. No novelist has taken greater risks with the English language or achieved more for the form.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Not to write anything I’m ashamed of and, hopefully, avoid writing anything I’ll become disappointed in too.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

If you can think of anything else you could possibly do with your life, choose it instead. Failing that, discipline is everything.

Eimear, thank you for playing

Pick up a copy of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing here

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