The Sunday Times bestseller: Girl is the new novel by the legendary Edna O’Brien, author of The Country Girls (dramatised on BBC Radio 4 in August 2019).
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** Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2020 **
Longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
A Times, Evening Standard and Financial Times Book of the Year
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.
By an extraordinary act of imagination we are transported into the inner world of a girl who, after brutal abuse, escapes and with dogged persistence begins to rebuild her life. Girl is a courageous book about a courageous spirit.
Mesmerising ... [O’Brien] has set herself one of the greatest challenges a writer can face: to plumb the darkest depths of the human soul. She has triumphantly succeeded. Hypnotic, lyrical and pulsating with dark energy, Girl is a masterful study of human evil by a writer who, at 88, is still getting better. It will blast you with its searing, savage beauty.
Girl broke me in two. It is a work of towering humanity and enduring literary value; a hard and beautiful miracle.
In Girl, the freshness of her prose is met by the innocence of her narrator and the freedom of her language by the chaos of the events it describes … The life she imagines and presents to the reader is one of unimaginable horror and she does not shy away … O’Brien puts all her might into seeing through her character’s young eyes, and this involves forgetting much that she herself knows. The triumph of the book is in the voice of the narrator, who is just as articulate as she might be. The book has a huge storyteller’s energy and O’Brien does not patronise – she really has entered the heart of this girl [and] has arrived at some essence of what it is to be vulnerable, female and young.
We should celebrate Edna O’Brien for the skill with which she makes us care.
A terrifying, lurching novel ... that keeps faith with the novelist’s determination to cross continents and cultures to describe the pain and suffering of women and girls ... Everything that O’Brien does memorably throughout her novels, she does here. There is the blend of economy and lyricism, vignettes tumbling over one another to disorient and energise the reader. There is the intense focus on the emotional lives of women on the sharp end of mental and physical incarceration or constraint, broadening out to sketch in the patriarchal and theocratic structures that hold them there. And there is the constant presence of bodily sensation and distress ... A masterclass of precision and mercilessness ... At 88, O’Brien appears to be more unafraid of experiment and risk than ever ... One can feel one’s empathy and understanding to have been enlarged.
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