A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

This novel was recommended to me by my fellow-writer friend Eimear, so I just had to read it! However, it did take me a while to get into. McBride writes here in first person and the narrator starts as a young girl, her voice is disjointed and ungrammatical throughout. As I read, though, the poetry of the work shone through and despite the grim subject matter of abuse – both physical and emotional – I was captivated to the end.

McBride’s style is very original. The use of the girl’s confused voice was a brave approach, and it works. The style reminded me of Room by Emma Donoghue, which is narrated by a five year-old boy, but I felt A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was much more engaging. Quite a masterly telling of love and guilt and betrayal.

Lessons from an exhibition

The Arnolfini is currently showing a new exhibition by Turner Prize winning artist Richard Long, (http://www.arnolfini.org.uk/whatson/richard-long-time-and-space) focusing on ‘the artist’s personal relationship to place and local materials, in particular those of Bristol and the South West’ and I’d been waiting patiently for my son to return from Cambodia to visit. As Joe had written about Long’s A Line Made By Walking as part of his MA thesis I knew he’d make an excellent guide, and we were finally able to go last week.

It’s quite an awe-inspiring body of work, including photography, drawings, writings and sculptures recreated in the gallery. There’s also a sculpture/installation off-site on The Downs, which we have yet to visit. The main subject of Long’s work is landscape, and in particular walking as a way of perceiving and recording the landscape. Some of the walks he’s taken are presented on the walls of the gallery, and they make an impressive record of his pilgrimages.

I found the exhibition quite inspiring. At times I’ve struggled with belief in my writing, and certainly struggle with attaining the discipline needed to sit down every day and just write – probably like most writers. This exhibition has proved to me what can be achieved with belief and commitment to writing/creating/walking every day, not just waiting for inspiration to grab hold.

The Aftermath – Rhidian Brook

I picked up this book on spec in Waterstone’s, from one of their tables, and am very glad I did. I hadn’t consciously heard of Brook before, but now I’ve read Aftermath I will definitely be looking out for more of his work.

The story is based in Berlin in 1946, the aftermath of the war, and initially the main protagonist is Lewis, a British Colonel in charge of the rebuilding of the city. Lewis is soon joined by his wife and son, and they move into a grand house which is the home of a German widower and his daughter. The story is told in third person, but the reader is given access to the hopes and fears of many of the main characters, including Lewis, his wife Rachael and Lubert, the owner of the house

It’s not an easy read because of the state of Berlin, which is grim. The people of the city have been left to create some sort of living and meaning from the ruins, with little resources left to them and suspicion everywhere. Brook has captured the sense of doom and injustice perfectly.

The writing is clear, descriptive but not flowery, and the sense of period seemed accurate – I was drawn into the events and tensions of the story. I think the screen rights to Aftermath could be bought soon – read it before you see it!