A book as tragic as it is beautiful, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride is one of the most well-crafted novels of the year. The Lesser Bohemians is a story of love and loss, of hatred, and of the human condition, of the extents of terror that accompany humanity, and of the lengths to which a person can be drawn before losing that humanity. McBride does all of this while captivating the reader with her mastery of language and its form.
Told from the perspective of an 18-year-old first year college student in London, we learn almost no one’s name until more than halfway through the book. Enrolled in drama school in the 1990’s, the nameless narrator meets an older, fairly well established actor who she falls into a tumultuous and raving relationship with. Each steeped in their own set of issues, at first the reader is given no signal to sympathize with these seemingly manic characters. They are immoral, utterly confounding, entirely irrational, and apparently terrible people. In fact, the first 40 or so pages can be a challenge to get through because the reader doesn’t know the characters: we can’t care. The narrator is obsessive and her lover is abusive: that’s all we get. Until McBride gives us everything.
Once the characters start to tell each other and thereby the narrator about themselves that’s when not only the narrative picks up speed, but the characters themselves begin to change and show their dynamic nature. Though still fully flawed and acting in ways that frustrate the reader to no end, the characters reveal more and more of themselves until the reader even has their names. And then the roller coaster begins again. Railing from tragedy to helplessness to hope and back again to tragedy, we are dragged on a heart wrenching ride that is dripping with passion and is impossible to predict.
All the while, McBride uses fragmented and poetical prose to mirror the fragmented and broken characters. Prose that is at first nearly impossible to submerge oneself in, but that as it continues develops a cohesion and beauty of its own that could only come with time, patience, and the characters’ development.
Richly wrought with the most devastating and beautiful images, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride is not for the faint of heart. Full of disturbing images and terrifying characters, The Lesser Bohemians is a book that is often difficult to even read, but is well worth the challenge.
Published by Hogarth Publishing in September of 2016, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride is available for purchase at your local bookstore.
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FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.