Eimear McBride’s first book, the radically experimental A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, was written when she was 27 and published in June 2013 to great critical acclaim. There have to date been no dissenting voices – McBride has arrived as a fully-formed talent who has created a new form of prose which deploys a spartan lexicon in fragmentary vernacular syncopations to represent the form of thought at the point before it becomes articulate speech. The impact on the reader is direct and convincing and frequently overwhelming. Few literary debuts in recent years have been so assured. Her writing combines the beautiful, the outrageous, the harrowing, the farcical and the heartbreaking in a courageously original, wholly uncommercial style, uncompromisingly experimental and an important addition to the literary avant-garde, its roots in 1920s modernism but also in contemporary life.
McBride was born in Liverpool to Northern Irish parents in 1976, one of four children and the only girl. In 1979 the family moved to Tubbercurry, County Sligo, in the Republic of Ireland. Her father died when she was 8 and in 1991 her mother moved the family to Castlebar, County Mayo. At the age of 17 she left Ireland for London and spent the next three years studying at Drama Centre. About six months after finishing the course her older brother Donagh became terminally ill and she spent most of the following year travelling back and forth to Ireland and the final four months there full time. In 2000 she spent four months in St Petersburg and the next few years were spent working as an office temp and travelling, mostly in Eastern Europe.
We had met twice before she agreed to an interview – briefly after a reading at a North London literary festival (her first public appearance) and a month later when I was invited by the publishers to contribute to the London launch of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. This interview is based on a series of email exchanges in August 2013. The growing media interest surrounding her book, the extraordinary reaction of readers and reviewers, complex negotiations with overseas publishers, the demands of a young daughter and work on the manuscript of her second book were all excellent reasons for her to turn down my request, or to reply to my many questions very briefly. In fact, her answers were thoughtful, unguarded, expansive and illuminating.