A Girl is a Half Formed Thing


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It is a disturbing read and quite haunting. I couldn’t gallop through in a couple of sittings as one reviewer claimed to have done, although it is quite compulsive reading, mostly because it is moving, sad, harrowing. And then the stilted jerking way of writing is often too tiring, too jarring and, let’s face it, too confusing. That I suppose is the point of rape after rape.
It is an awful vision here and disturbing to think as the title suggests this is the accepted view of women/girls. This treatment is all they are worth!

I had thought to read it again immediately as happens with some books but with this I simply had to move on. I’m glad I read it… but just the once.
It has only just struck me, do we even know the girl’s name? Poor half formed thing?  I have not yet gone back to check, too engrossed with Americanah.

A book to snuggle up with

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A Girl is a Half Formed Thing written by Eimear McBride has a disturbing world view, written in spiky disturbing prose that none the less won praise for innovation – amongst other things and beat the other short listed novels for the newly named Bailey’s prize for women’s fiction.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was  also shortlisted but did not win.  This describes life on different continents and is also worlds apart. Life for Africans in America, England and at home.  By turns funny and sad but always very readable. Hairstyles and lovers, growing up, growing apart, being deported, what is a good novel about but many, many things.

Perhaps it is a kind of laziness to want to be lost in the world of a book, to fall asleep reading it, to reach for it on waking or whenever quiet moments present themselves,  but  the prose style makes it a pleasure and not an endurance.

In no way does the comparison criticise the winner, just highlights the difference and a preference.

gardening days and writing days



On gardening days I am struck by the similarities between writing and gardening. I know one is a sedentary pursuit and the other anything but. Think of weeding out extraneous matter, re-planning whole sections, consigning failures to the compost bin, leaving well alone for a good long while, thinking about what to do before acting. Style is personal but  obeying the ‘rules’ can  make for pleasure and harmony.

On writing days, I worry about the garden and often nip out to snag a few brambles, or prune rampant roses, when the plot is thorny.

Perhaps this should tell me something.

With one book to your name you can’t call yourself a writer,  Sunny Boy maintains. Well I have written four so far, only one submitted and accepted and two ready to send. I have agonised over story, characters, style punctuation and plot long enough. I have lived with the story and the characters, even dreamed of them and finally think they are on their own and ready to go into the world. Well, I prepare to send them, ready or not, to share their story, first with the trusted few, who will be able to tell me, ‘no mate, you’re away with the fairies there.’  Or else (fingers crossed) ‘it’s got something.’
I wonder how many times Eimear Mc Bride was told ‘no mate.’  I think it took her nine years to find a publisher for a Girl is a Half Formed Thing . Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for her.

A Taste of Cinnamon in Oxford



There is nothing like hearing a story or a poem read out loud. Perhaps, rather than teach recalcitrant three, four and five year old to read, they should have stories read to them end to end till the bug bites and they simply can’t wait for the next instalment but have to do it for themselves.

A treat to be invited to read at the Taste of Cinnamon Evening, at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Jericho, a delightful front room of a bookshop. It reminded me of my childhood home where books, the overflow from bookcases perhaps, lined up on the window ledge in the corridor outside the bedroom. The titles were a poem in themselves but did not entice me further, too restless, too active, too young perhaps to sit and read all that small print without pictures, no matter how intriguing.

We listened to authors we knew, with whom we had shared a writing course and a dream of being published.  Thanks to Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press that dream came true. Like a fairy godmother she waved her wand and lo!

Of course there was the hard work and the angst in between (for both parties).
For Jan, not least there is the worry of funding, of keeping going, of the phenomenal undertaking of publishing 25 books a year.

Proprietor Dennis Harrison asked Jan fortune how she chose what to publish. The reply was heartening. Out of the thousand or so hopefuls, there are one or two that sing out with a distinct voice, a voice with something to say and a way of saying it that you feel you could ‘listen’ to. (I paraphrase; Jan said it much better off the cuff).

(Picture: Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn and Jan Fortune)




Newly Published Author

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Hazel Manuel stands behind her publisher, Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press at an event to celebrate  the launch of her first book, Kanyakumari with a tantalising taste of what lies in store between the covers, when the book, with the rustling of pages and distinct smell of newness, is top of the to read pile.