By Shelley Marsden
DEBUT novelist Eimear McBride may have failed to get her first book published for nearly ten years, but it has now beaten the likes of Donna Tartt to be named the winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Considered too experimental for most publishing companies for its ‘stream of consciousness’ style, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing tells the traumatic story of a young women, and her relationship with a brother who has been dealing with a brain tumour since he was a child.
Hot favourite to win what was formerly known as the Orange prize was Donna Tarrt’s The Goldfinch, but it was 37 year old Liverpool-Irish author Eimear, a former actress who grew up in County Sligo, who surprised everyone by scooping the title.
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing was inspired by Eimear’s personal life, after her own brother Donagh, who had lived with a brain tumour for 23 years, died. She wrote the book swiftly in just six months, straight after her north London home was burgled and, along with it, two years of longhand notes.
It starts with the narrator talking from inside her mother’s womb, and the adventurous nature of her writing continues. It did not appeal to mainstream publishers, she sent it to, and Eimear left the script in a drawer to gather dust until her husband (theatre director William Galinksy), met a man who owned a bookshop in Norwich who wanted to launch his own independent publishing house.
The final result, published by Galley Beggar, was 8,000 words shorter than the original and attracted great press, leading to Faber quickly buying the paperback rights.
Eimear said she hoped her shocking and troubling novel, which has taken the literary world by storm and already won the £10,000 Goldsmiths prize and Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award, would “encourage writers to be adventurous”.
McBride was presented with £30,000 for the Baileys prize, which is currently the only annual award for fiction written by a woman, at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Helen Fraser, the chair of judges, called her work “an amazing and ambitious first novel that impressed the judges with its inventiveness and energy. This is an extraordinary new voice – this novel will move and astonish the reader.”
She added that it was very funny, very ‘Irish’ and would make readers think about the role of the Catholic Church in Irish life.