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A Girl is a Half-formed Thing

Novel by Eimear McBride

Driven to despair by the intimate traumas of family, a nameless woman uses her sexuality as a weapon and shield.

September 2014
6 x 9 | 227 Pages
Trade Cloth

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at

ISBN: 978-1-56689-368-8.



Winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award
Finalist for the Folio Prize
Longlisted for the Irish Laureate
NPR‘s Best Books of 2014
The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014
#3 on Time Out New York‘s 10 best books of 2014
Publishers Weekly, Kirkus,
and Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014
Boston Globe
Best Fiction of 2014
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal Best Books of 2014
Star Tribune
Best Fiction of 2014
Electric Literature 25 Best Novels of 2014

Largehearted Boy
Favorite Novels of 2014

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is simply a brilliant book—entirely emotionally raw and at the same time technically astounding. Her prose is as haunting and moving as music, and the love story at the heart of the novel—between a sister and brother—as true and wrenching as any in literature. This is a book about everything: family, faith, sex, home, transcendence, violence, and love. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” —Elizabeth McCracken

“McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a game-changer, a disruptor, a grenade of a novel, and we all agreed this had to win.” —Isabel Berwick

“My discovery of the year was Eimear McBride’s debut novel A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing.” —Eleanor Catton

Eimear McBride’s acclaimed debut tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumor, touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma.


“It was a really astonishing book. We felt that from the first time we read it – it stood out from the crowd. . . It’s incredibly original. It has a raw energy we all responded to. It has real lyrical qualities even though the subject matter can sometimes be so shocking.” —BBC

“Her language is artfully deranged to make familiar experiences strange and new but in that derangement there is vitality, even joy. . . It sucks the reader very deeply into the young woman’s desperate hope that ‘I might be a person. Beneath the.’ We feel the darkness of that dangling, missing word but at the same time we are compelled to complete the phrase and to form for ourselves this unformed person. In doing so we may find an aesthetic pleasure that belies the pain of her story.” —The New York Review of Books

“A jolting, unforgettable voice. . . A novel both formally innovative and psychologically unsparing.” —New York Times

“It is, in all respects, a heresy–which is to say, Lord above, it’s a Future Classic” New York Times

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is indeed conventional in places, but in most respects the novel is blazingly daring. . . [McBride’s] prose is a visceral throb, and the sentences run meanings together to produce a kind of compression in which words, freed from the tedious march of sequence, seem to want to merge with one another, as paint and musical notes can. The results are thrilling, and also thrillingly efficient.”  The New Yorker

“[W]ritten in a Joycean stream of consciousness with an Irish lilt, and sentence fragments transmit the pervasive sense of urgency, of thoughts spinning faster than the tongue can speak. . . an unforgettable novel.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“…powerful debut novel…Those who persevere through this challenging story will have read something unforgettable.” —Publishers Weekly

“McBride calls to mind both Joyce and Stein in her syntax and mechanics, but she brings her own emotional range to the table, as well. . . open-minded readers (specifically those not put off by the unusual language structure) will be surprised, moved and awed by this original novel. . . This is exhilarating fiction from a voice to watch.” Kirkus, starred review

“An instant classic.” The Guardian

“It’s hard to imagine another narrative that would justify this way of telling, but perhaps McBride can build another style from scratch for another style of story. That’s a project for another day, when this little book is famous.” London Review of Books

“Unlike any other book in recent memory.” Rain Taxi

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing insists, ultimately, that though the body communicates, there are limits to its being communicated. The Girl stumbles around in this narrataive space, between feeling and saying, insisting on being heard even if not understood. If she is incoherent, it is defiantly so.” The Carolina Quarterly

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is a gorgeously odd novel. . . McBride’s style, which she has called an attempt to capture “the moment just before language becomes formatted thought,” is the most remarkable aspect of the book.” —NPR

“Be prepared to be blown away by this raw, visceral, brutally intense neomodernist first novel. . . .readers can’t help but be pulled into the vortex of this devastating, ferociously original debut.” —NPR

“[A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is] a wrenching, dark and formally experimental novel.” —Tampa Bay Times

“A life told from deep down inside, beautiful, harrowing, and ultimately rewarding the way only a brilliant work of literature can be.” —Michael Chabon

“Eimear McBride is a writer of remarkable power and originality” —David Collard

“It’s hard to imagine another narrative that would justify this way of telling, but perhaps McBride can build another style from scratch for another style of story. That’s a project for another day, when this little book is famous” —London Review of Books

“It is always a wonderful and satisfying thing to hear that an unknown debut author has won a major prize for writing. . . And when the news that the unknown writer winning the big prize is being published in the United States by Minneapolis’ Coffee House Press, well, the news is all the more welcome.” —Star Tribune

“This is brave, dizzying, risk-taking fiction of the highest order.”  Star Tribune

“[A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is formally groundbreaking, and has been declared a work of “genius” by Man Booker winner Anne Enright. It came to widespread public attention last year, when it was awarded the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, set up to reward iconoclastic fiction. Since then, the book has been shortlisted for the Folio Prize and now longlisted for the Baileys: the establishment, in other words, is remaking itself in the image of the revolutionary.” —The Telegraph

“Written in language that “pulsates and adapts, disintegrating and resolving at will”, it “stands shoulder-to-shoulder with The Catcher in the Rye, Lolita and The Road as a masterpiece that some love and some loathe, but which has a greatness that few will deny,” said Cleave, chair of the Desmond Elliott judging panel.” —The Guardian

“One of the most remarkable things about [A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is hearing the thoughts of a woman from the inside out. There are very few authentic literary examples of the inner workings of a woman’s mind.” The Independent Ireland

“The language is expressionistic, confiding, and plays havoc with the normal rules of syntax and structure. For the reader, the impression is of a voice so close to your ear that you can almost hear the breathing.” —Irish Independent

“McBride’s much praised and powerful first novel.” —BBC

“An astonishing literary debut” —The Independent

“Eimear McBride very deliberately set out to recapture in her own writing what Joyce had done for her in his – opened up parts of life that couldn’t be described in conventional language.” The Telegraph

“McBride was hailed as “that old-fashioned thing, a genius” by fellow Irish novelist Anne Enright.” . . . This is a novel so emotionally overwhelming that it can be hard to finish a sentence, but also one in which each line repays thought and second reading.” —The Guardian

“What is fascinating here, and what should induct the novel into a more enduring canon of women’s writing, is that McBride never self-censors when engaging with the pain, the abjection, and the desperation generated out of situations in which a woman is granted little more than her body and her words to use as weapons within imbalanced power structures.” —The Los Angeles Review of Books

“A page-turner and a slow burn at the same time…” —Vanity Fair

“…stylistic, gut-wrenching…a work of art.” —Journal Sentinel

“[I]t was heartening to observe that the most talked about book of the season, at least among the people I was around, will be published in the United States by the tiny and prescient Coffee House Press. It’s called A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, and it’s by Eimear McBride—look out for it in September.” —The New Yorker

“By the end of the novel, when the siblings are quite far from slug races, the narrator’s question—“What if we were young, were small again?”—is liable to break your heart.” —The Riveter Magazine

“Eimear McBride is unrelenting in her vision, and drags you into the muck and the current after her and her unnamed girl, not even asking you if you want to drown.” —The Rumpus

A Girl is A Half Formed Thing announces the arrival of an ecstatic new talent.” —The New Daily

“Even if stream-of-consciousness-style prose isn’t really your thing, there’s no denying that Eimear McBride’s literary devices place you directly into the narrator’s head, making this novel unforgettable.” —Bustle

A  gut-wrenching and haunting coming-of-age tale composed in a profoundly affecting staccato style.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“If you dial into the rhythm and hear the narrator in your head, as I did, the Irish cadence and cry of despair sounds a plaintive, soprano tone. . . That McBride could tap such a monumental well of feeling, turn it inside out, and present it for the reader’s interpretation and judgment is literary miracle. Too many prize wins? I say the book hasn’t won nearly enough of them.” —Maclean’s

“[An] audacious, brutal, bracingly jagged-edged debut.” —Boston Globe

“[McBride] reframes our expectations of prose and clarifies an urgent reality: we are all half-formed, to some degree.” The Colorado Review

“A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing truly is that rare emergence, though, a book that reads like it boiled up out of the earth . . . It simply burns.” Nuvo Magazine

“This novel is full of splintered, brilliant prose. Family, abuse, religion, illness, identity, and personal freedom — it’s all here.” —Word Bookstores

“Overall, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is a touching, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking exploration into the relationship between siblings. It will leave the reader devastated, yet satisfied and is definitely worth the read.” —Blottature

“Eimear McBride’s debut novel has a reputation that precedes it here in America. Winner of multiple awards, the US release should only confirm what we’ve suspected over here all along.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“[A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is] a heartbreaking but stunning read, a portrait of suffering barely visible under cloudy water.” Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal

“An amazing book, unlike anything I’ve read before, and it announces McBride as a master at realizing perspective.” —AV Club

“Best devoured in a short period of time, this novel is gorgeous, unforgettable, and difficult in all the best ways.” —Heavy Feather

“The writing is highly crafted on a micro-level. There is richness in its internal rhymes, its perfectly made-up words for those moments when language fails — “miracly,” “inthespring” . . . cycling between the throb of an open wound and a lilting ecstasy of music.” —Brown Daily Herald

“A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction earlier this year, is raw and real and will break your heart time and time again before it’s done with you.” —Bustle

A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is to modern fiction what bare-knuckle fist fights are to the Marquess-of-Queensbury-ruled boxing – this is the savage and fucking hard-hitting end of the genre. . . [A]bsolutely brilliant.” —The Only Way is Reading

“I urge readers to step outside their literary boxes and experience this remarkable book.” —Shelf Unbound

“Challenging novels that offer more than your standard bestseller-list low-watt escapism.” —The Star

“McBride tells a bracing story that is also a heartbreaking, painful thing to read. As the girl’s father said on his way out the door, ‘The heart cannot be wrung and wrung.’ McBride and her Girl beg to differ.” —The Charleston Post and Courier

“McBride’s writing is relentless. Every line, sentence, word is a confrontation with the world. . . invigorating and uncompromising.” Bangkok Post

“An amazing book, unlike anything I’ve read before, and it announced McBride as a master at realizing perspective.” —AV Club

“McBride’s novel–about an Irish girl’s coming-of-age in the shadow of her brother’s off-and-on battle with brain cancer–is written in pulsing, feverish prose, prose that is chopped and diced and scrambled, devastating and erotic.” The Riveter

“Perhaps any narrative filtered through stream of consciousness would qualify as being written in a language unique to itself, but in McBride’s hands, this novel about a troubled woman’s sexual awakening reaches an almost overwhelmingly singular register.” LitHub

“McBride has created a world, that is not just accessible but positively drags you in, surrounds and infiltrates you. Her innovative approach to language is sometimes shocking, but it’s the only way that we can genuinely experience the whole of the character.” Tales From a Bruce Eye View

“Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is simply a brilliant book—entirely emotionally raw and at the same time technically astounding. Her prose is as haunting and moving as music, and the love story at the heart of the novel—between a sister and brother—as true and wrenching as any in literature. This is a book about everything: family, faith, sex, home, transcendence, violence, and love. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” Elizabeth McCracken

“Amazing writing.” —Library Journal

“I’m left with great admiration for the author’s skill.” —Bluestocking Journal

“A wonderful but harrowing first person stream of consciousness. . . it truly is one of the most extraordinary things I’ve read in the last year.” —Harper’s Bazaar

“Imaginatively told and poignantly resonant, this debut is one of the year’s best books.” Largehearted Boy

“[McBride’s language] might take some getting used to, but let it flow through you—the life she’s writing will feel that much rawer for it.” —GQ

“At its most fundamental level this is a heartwrenching story of love, loss and an exceptionally strong sibling bond. The sadness of it was almost unbearable; it didn’t remind me of grief, it felt like it. But in as far as grief can only spring from love, there is something beautiful about that, and about much of the writing.” PaperBlog

“[A] bizarre, visceral thing that shifts and bends in your hands.” Flavorwire

“It’s hard going at first, but once you let the language wash over you and form a rhythm, the book blossoms into a gorgeous, brutal stream of word and thought.” Flavorwire

“A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing does something fresh and important with these themes, thanks in part to its canny adoption of modernist form.” Breac

“Put this one in the category of Most Memorable Books Ever.” —Bustle

“Sarah Jessica Parker is an outwardly proud book lover…Plus, these books were Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me and Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, so we know the woman’s got taste.” —Bustle

“McBride has produced something unparalleled in pace and tone to the works of other Irish writers.” The Vault

“Playful, rich, exciting—rarely have I read a book where I felt that the medium actually is the message.” The Star Online

“Eimear McBride’s victory in the Bailey Prize with A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is a heartening though rare instance of a difficult book being given a reward from mainstream publishing, not just from independent readers and reviewers.” Quadrapheme

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a challenging, knotty read that demands your full attention, but it’s hardly a chore to completely turn yourself over to it. . . the lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art.” —UCL Center for Publishing

Applause and credit is well earned, for the voice is like nothing you’ve ever heard before.” —Kingston Creative Writers

“[McBride's A Girl is a Half-formed Thing] is testament not only to her literary skill but also to the inexhaustible possibilities of the novel form itself.” —Books and Culture

“McBride’s experiment reaches back into the archaic and the incoherent: it is not so much an expression of genius as of ungenius, a dismantling of the scaffolding of thought, of culture and the Church, expressing instead the profundity of fragmentation and psychological disrepair.” —The Conversation

“My admiration and respect for Eimear McBride is boundless.” —PopMatters

“It’s less of a book and more of a reading experience, and an intense one at that. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is bleakly beautiful.” Emily

“A virtuosic debut: subversive, passionate, and darkly alchemical. Read it and be changed.” Eleanor Catton

“Ven­true­some read­ers who per­sist will find that Mc­Bride’s sear­ing hon­es­ty and lin­guis­tic prow­ess pay huge di­vi­denudes.” —Star Tribune

“[McBride's] style is never alienating; if anything, it’s almost stiflingly intimate and sustained, retaining its power as the narrator becomes an adult. The result is stunning, a portrait of suffering barely visible from the surface.” —Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal

“I can’t remember the last time I was as thrilled by a book as I was by A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. Sitting on my couch, I had to refrain from whooping with joy at the sheer daring of the thing.” —Bookslut

“It’s a glorious and painful read from the first page to the last.” —Book Riot

“Eimear McBride’s novel, A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing is full of poetry and savage beauty. The future of literature suddenly looks a lot better since this daredevil came along.” —Herald Scotland

“A self like safety glass after the wreck.” —New York Magazine

“McBride’s novel stretches the boundaries of language.” Green Apple on the Park

“Eimear McBride’s searing debut balances a highly experimental style with intense bouts of emotion and moments of stunning simplicity.” —BuzzFeed

“An existentialist (if not nihilistic) story, told in a captivating stream of consciousness, painting a portrait of one woman’s strength and vulnerability.” BuzzFeed

“The unsettling rhythms of its staccato sentences have earned passionate praise and some dislike, but this frank, de-contextualised fictional autobiography of a young Irish woman is already a book of the year.” —South China Morning Post

“Once you get comfortable with McBride’s style, you’ll be deep in this Irish tragedy — but too entrenched to seek escape.” —City Pages

“In many ways, 2014 was the year of the debut. Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing swept up a half-dozen major awards.” —Star Tribune

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is an audaciously experimental novel, written in a scrambled, impressionistic inner monologue; a voice one critic called “a visceral throb.” —The Globe and Mail (UK)

“Catching up with and being caught up in Eimear McBride’s ferocious and fearless A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing.” —Irish Times

“Undeniably, gut-punchingly beautiful.” —The Austin Chronicle

“Perhaps no debut has been more thrilling than Eimear McBride’s Girl is a Half-formed Thing.” —SF Weekly

“Like nothing I’ve ever read.” —Juneau Empire

“Undoubtedly my standout read of the year, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is an exciting and innovative debut.” —Glasgow Review of Books

“Irish author Eimear McBride earned hosannas for her first novel with the very evocative A Girl is a Half Formed Thing.” —Indian Express

“This book is akin to being blinded by the moon: it sears your eyeballs, and you love every tiny wrenching stab of it.” —Pank

“The novel is a stunning technical achievement . . . Complex and vividly real.” —Magill’s Literary Annual

“It was such relief to write a woman like that. Well worth the risk of constructing this rickety immersive style which, while owing much to modernism’s ‘stream-of-consciousness’, might, more accurately, be termed ‘stream-of-existence’ instead.” —The Gaurdian