by Edna O'Brien

Hardcover, 2019




New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2019]


"I was a girl once, but not any more." So begins Edna O'Brien's harrowing portrayal of the young women abducted by Boko Haram. Set in the deep countryside of northeast Nigeria, this is a brutal story of incarceration, horror, and hunger; a hair-raising escape into the manifold terrors of the forest; and a descent into the labyrinthine bureaucracy and hostility awaiting a victim who returns home with a child blighted by enemy blood. From one of the century's greatest living authors, Girl is an unforgettable story of one victim's astonishing survival, and her unflinching faith in the redemption of the human heart.

User reviews

LibraryThing member DebbieMcCauley
Imagine you are a girl at school. Armed soldiers burst in, claiming they come to provide protection – but their uniforms are stolen. They are part of Boko Haram, a jihadist terrorist organisation based in north-eastern Nigeria. You are herded into trucks and much later arrive at their isolated camp. There, your first experience of sex is to be raped by three men. The rapes continue, often up to seven men or more. You see a woman stoned to death. You are treated with a brutality stemming from an attitude that as you are female, you have only one use. They also try to brainwash you. As you are not pregnant you are selected as a wife. Then you do become pregnant and give birth with unsympathetic women surrounding you. Your child is not celebrated – because it is female. The camp is bombed by government forces and you and your child escape into the Nigerian bush and the fear they are coming after you, the thirst, the starvation, the snakes and other terrors hound you. You are eventually found and treated as a surviving hero for publicity purposes. When you are returned to your family, you learn of the brutal deaths of your father and brother and how you shame the family and your baby has ‘tainted’ blood. Your baby, a reminder that you are nothing but a ‘bush wife’ is taken from you. How to retain any sanity, how to retain any dignity at all. O’Brien has brought all the horrors home to us in this book – not letting the world forget the events of 14 April 2014 when 276 young, innocent girls, were abducted from a government secondary boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, Nigeria. The girls had come from surrounding areas to take their exams… and the surviving women who have escaped still suffer, unwanted with their children in camps… and what has happened to those more than 100 girls still missing? Brutal, but must be read.… (more)
LibraryThing member davidroche
It’s a big time of year for stacking tomes by the bedside but I found myself at the airport in need of a book and plumped for Girl (Faber) by Edna O’Brien. Her wonderful writing and harrowing story is a powerful combination. The central character is a girl in Nigeria who is kidnapped by jihadist fighters and struggles against brutal events and conflicting emotions. Given values are questioned by what becomes normality, and this is definitely a book that stays with you after completion.… (more)
LibraryThing member alexrichman
Reminded me of Room, in that the psychiatric treatment of ‘afterwards’ is given too much precedence. Interesting for the author, perhaps, but not the reader in my case.



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