June 4, 2014 / 7:44 PM / 5 years ago

Irish author Eimear McBride wins Bailey's award for first novel

LONDON (Reuters) - Irish author Eimear McBride won the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction on Wednesday for her first novel, “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing”, which took her 10 years to get published.

In announcing the prize, which carries a 30,000-pound ($50,200) cash award, jury chair Helen Fraser called McBride’s work “an amazing and ambitious first novel that impressed the judges with its inventiveness and energy.

“This is an extraordinary new voice - this novel will move and astonish the reader,” the former publisher said in a statement.

The book is a dark story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, set in an Ireland of religious oppression and sexual abuse. Her protagonist goes on a journey of spectacular self-destruction in an attempt to flee her demons.

“I really didn’t want to write that sort of character,” McBride, whose parents are from Northern Ireland but who grew up in Tubbercurry, County Sligo, told Reuters in an interview last month.

“Especially I didn’t want to write about sex and religion in Ireland, but it just became that story that I had to tell, so I just had to go with it. Maybe there are some things you have to get out of your system.”

McBride wrote the book when she was 27 and only found a publisher a decade later when the Galley Beggar Press paid her a 600 pound advance for what was then its second book. It has since been picked up by Faber & Faber to reach a wider audience.

Other books on the shortlist were Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah”, Hannah Kent’s “Burial Rites”, Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Lowland”, Audrey Magee’s “The Undertaking” and Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”.

Previous winners of what was originally called the Orange Prize for Fiction include A.M. Homes for “May We Be Forgiven” (2013), Madeline Miller for “The Song of Achilles” (2012), Tea Obreht for “The Tiger’s Wife” (2011) and Barbara Kingsolver for “The Lacuna” (2010).

Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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