BOOK REVIEW: EDNA O’BRIEN – GIRL

Today, it’s another review of a book currently on the Women’s Prize long-list 2020. It’s Girl by Edna O’Brien.

I read this book last month and I’ve been trying to come up with the words to describe how I feel about this book… but first, what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

Captured, abducted and married into Boko Haram, the narrator of this story witnesses and suffers the horrors of a community of men governed by a brutal code of violence. Barely more than a girl herself, she must soon learn how to survive as a woman with a child of her own. Just as the world around her seems entirely consumed by madness, bound for hell, she is offered an escape of sorts – but only into another landscape of trials and terrors amidst the unforgiving wilds of northeastern Nigeria, through the forest and beyond; a place where her traumas are met with the blinkered judgement of a society in denial.

How do we love in a world that has lost its moorings? How can we comprehend the barbarism of our enemies, and learn forgiveness for atrocities committed in the name of ideology? Edna O’Brien’s new novel pierces to the heart of these questions: and the result is her masterpiece.

This book is an interesting one in terms of Own Voices discussion. I think this is fiction, of course, the author can write about what she wants and it’s clear that she has done her research but I do think it’s a discussion worth having and not one to dismiss.

I’m still trying to work out what I think about this book, to be honest. I don’t think this is a real review than I usually do but I think that’s a good strength of the book – to make me question and think about it than just reading it and finishing it. This is a bleak, dark, uncomfortable read, of course it is, but I didn’t enjoy the reading experience, either.

There are moments of good prose and you can tell she’s a seasoned writer, I loved the action scenes – I thought they were well placed but I just felt that something was missing. I feel that the structure of it is the problem for me, it didn’t work and I feel lost it’s way in the middle of the novel. While this is an uncomfortable read, there are moments, a glimmer of hope throughout the novel and I feel that this could be a masterpiece but something didn’t fit right with me.

I think another problem I had when reading this book was that I was reading How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee and that book also deals with similar themes. I think Girl was a better reading experience as I liked the writing style more but I think it needs to be re-read as I have a lot of questions still after reading it.

Overall, a powerful, emotional story with glimmers of hope and beautiful prose but not the masterpiece I’ve seen other people call it. Something didn’t work for me and I’ll re-read it again in the future, I’m sure, I just need a break after it. I think it’s important to keep open the discussion of ‘Own Voices’ – you can see she cares, she’s done her research but you can’t dismiss it.

I’ve got three books left on the Women’s Prize long-list: Djinn Patrol On The Purple LineThe Most Fun We Ever Had and The Mirror and the Light. We’re going to know the shortlist next week! I’m going to do a post all about my thoughts about the long-list along with my shortlist predictions. It’s been a great experience and reading a lot of different books.

Have you read Girl? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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