Author: Edna O’Brien
Publisher: Faber and Faber Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
The award season for books is upon us. The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 Longlist was announced on the 3rd of March 2020 and one of the books that caught my fancy was Girl by Edna O’Brien. I have read O’Brien’s books in the past – maybe two to three, but this one sounded so unlike what she would write and further piqued my interest.
Girl is a book based on a factual record. When I got to know of that, my skin crawled a little. I didn’t know what to make of the world we live in – the one that I thought of as being empathetic and kind to a large extent. Now, I don’t know. Girl is based on the abduction of hundreds of convent girls who were group-raped by the Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. The novel focuses on one girl who tells us the story of their journey into the forest, and what happens thereafter.
Girl isn’t an easy book to read. The code of violence the men are governed by, and in turn the abuse faced by mere girls is not easy to digest for all. At the same time, O’Brien talks about love and forgiveness in the harsh landscape – of what follows and how brutal it must be, there is perhaps light at the end of the tunnel.
The book is all about the human condition – about its frailties, evils, and also maybe the idea that all can be forgiven. But can it? Would you? Could I? I don’t know but these questions did come to mind as I was reading this book and did stay with me long after.
Girl is a tough read. It isn’t pleasant. It demands attention and your emotions as well. It is sensitively written but doesn’t shy away from telling what must have happened and how. I am rooting for it to be a part of the shortlist. I wish more people read this book.