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Eimear McBride’s First Novel Wins Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Eimear McBride's First Novel Wins Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

It took debut novelist Eimear McBride many years to get her first book published after writing it in six months, but since then, it’s been much smoother sailing. Since A Girl is a Half-formed Thing was finally released, its author has received rave reviews and a number of awards, most recently last night’s the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. McBride’s book “tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother who is living with the after effects of a brain tumor” from the perspective of the unnamed young woman. 

The Guardian reports: “McBride had accumulated a hefty pile of rejection slips, and the manuscript had gone into the back of a drawer, when a conversation between her theatre director husband and a bookshop owner in their adopted home city, Norwich, led to its becoming one of the launch titles of the small independent press Galley Beggar” and by the time Faber & Faber got the paperback rights, the novel had already been recognized with a number of accolades “including the 12,000 pounds Irish novel of the year award and the first Goldsmiths prize for ‘boldly original fiction.'” 

Helen Fraser, chair of the Baileys Women Prize for Fiction, noted that “This has been a fantastic year for women’s fiction, as the quality of both the long and shortlist made clear, and I think what has emerged as the worthy winner is a really original new voice.” As to why it took so long for this original new voice to be heard, Fraser said, “Publishers do make mistakes, and I can only imagine that some may have read the first two or three pages and thought, ‘No, this is too difficult.’ But once you get beyond that, we found it utterly engaging, readable, unputdownable. The style is no obstacle.” 

In accepting the honor, McBride challenged the rationale for her many rejections — that readers wouldn’t understand or appreciate her complex prose style: “I hope [this award] will serve as an incentive to publishers everywhere to take a look at difficult books and think again. We are all writers but we are all readers first. There is a contract between publishers and readers which must be honoured, readers can not be underestimated.” McBride, who was trained as an actress, is currently working on her second novel. 

h/t The Guardian 

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