Review by JJ Marsh
The Baileys Prize Shortlist
The first thing everyone says about this book is ‘it’s a hard read’.
It is. Unconventional in its prose style: confrontational in its subject. McBride’s fractured rendition of conversations and distinctively Irish English, plus the disregard for the norms of punctuation, dialogue tags or attribution makes the reader either work hard or relax.
I recommend the latter. Forget the fact standard reader-signposts are absent and realise you are not being told a story, but being drawn into an experience.
Our unnamed narrator expresses herself and her formative experiences with feeling rather than eloquence– as the author puts it, ‘balancing on the moment just before language becomes formatted thought’.
There is much to think about; familial bonds, the strictures and comforts of religion, the unfairness of disease, perceptions of self and identity as defined in the eyes of others and female sexuality and how it can be (ab)used. McBride neither shows nor tells of the love, shame and guilt battling within our protagonist. By dint of brutal poetry and risky narration, she makes the reader feel it too.
This is the third book I’ve read from independent small publishers Galley Beggar Press, and I’m so glad they exist. Otherwise books like this would not.
You'll like this if you enjoy: James Joyce, Sarah Kane, Samuel Beckett
Avoid if you dislike: risk-taking, no stabilisers, experiential writing
Ideal accompaniments: Hard green apples, sipping vodka and silence so you can hear the music in these words.
Genre: Literary fiction
Addendum: Congratulations, Eimear!!!!