In a surprise move, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was awarded to Irish author Eimer McBride’s debut novel, A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing, beating out more seasoned names such as newly crowned Pulitzer winner Donna Tartt and Flawless Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
McBridge’s stream of consciousness novel, centred on an unnamed young woman and her fraught relationship with her ill brother, had previously won the Goldsmith’s Prize for original fiction and was shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, yet surprisingly, the novel took a decade to be published after being rejected by multiple publishers for being too experimental. Eventually, small indie publisher Galley Beggar Press, based in Norwich, picked up the novel in 2011.
Helen Fraser, the head of this year’s judging panel (which also included Denise Mina and Caitlin Moran), praised McBride’s “amazing book” and said the judging session quickly whittled down the shortlist to her novel and one other (surprisingly, she wouldn’t name the runner up).
“Very early on Eimear stood out from the crowd. We all put ourselves into purdah to re-read the shortlisted books but it was only when we started cautiously exchanging emails in the past week that we realised what a strong contender it was. It took us one hour to get the shortlist down to two books, and the remaining three hours to decide between them – but this is a truly worthy winner.” (Source)
Time will tell if McBride sees a significant bump in her book sales as a result of the prize win, although Amazon reviews so far show a divided reader-base, many of whom find the novel too experimental. You can decide for yourself.