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Eimear McBride and the art of experimental fiction

A feature interview with Eimear McBride, winner of the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

Eimear McBride and the art of experimental fiction
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Eóin Holligan
12:00 Saturday 23 August 2014

This week, ‘Talking Books’ is taking it up a notch or two. We will be dedicating an hour to the talented Eimear McBride, and her award winning novel ‘A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing’ (2013). Eimear’s first novel has garnered critical acclaim at every turn, most notably picking up the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction this year- formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Eimear’s personal story is one of skill, persistence and success. Born in Liverpool, to Irish parents, she moved back to her parent’s home place early in life. She grew up in the west of Ireland, before returning to Britain at the age of 17 to pursue her study of drama in London.

While living in London, she began reading ‘Ulysses’ and this experience has shaped her as a writer, giving her the added confidence and zeal to follow her creative instincts and remain true to her subject matter. The result was a unique and unorthodox first novel, with difficult subject matter and fragmented prose.

However, years of frustration followed, as Eimear struggled to gain traction in the publishing world. Rather than cede to the demand of the industry, in her own words, Eimear was resigned to possibly being another ‘failed, unpublishable writer.’ Nonetheless, after ten years of rejection her persistence paid off and Galley Beggar Press, a small publishing house in Norwich, offered her a way into the industry, which she grasped with both hands.

 

The novel deals with the life of the unnamed narrator and is coursing with emotion throughout, providing a realistic caricature of 1980’s rural Ireland, where the novel is set. Difficult themes of abuse, illness and bereavement are dealt with in a sharp, nuanced fashion, as the book almost serves as a cathartic experience for the central character.

‘A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing’ is certainly a challenging read, and Eimear would have it no other way. She has stated in the past that she feels that there are readers out there with a thirst for this type of fiction and ‘they deserve to be catered for.’

As demonstrated by the success of the book, she has certainly made her point with aplomb. This is sure to be one of many innovate and cutting edge novels from Eimear. As we wait with anticipation for her next offering.

Join Susan as we explore the struggle and success of Eimear’s career to date. How did she create such a vivid and realistic environment in ‘A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing? Is Irish life different today in comparison to the novels world? And how does she feel about the reaction to her first book, both from critics and readers?

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