The Lesser Bohemians

The Lesser Bohemians Book Cover The Lesser Bohemians
Eimear McBride
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This book is, in its simplest form, a transgressive love story.

Similar in style, but lighter in scope, to McBride’s first novel (A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing), the reader shares the thoughts of a vibrant young woman (18) after she’s left her Irish homeland to attend drama school in the big city (London).

The protagonist, a curious character, intent on expanding her selfhood and her social sphere, meets an established man whose troubled past fractures their every encounter. Together, we share her sexual awakening (and subsequent descent into a maddening love affair).

 “Fright I. He holds to. The make of his lip, turning into my own, turn until I kiss back. I think he is smiling but means it the same. Kisses to bit breaths and touch of his tongue making fast me, does he notice?”

This book explores deeply complex and human questions, such as the sustainability of passion, the residual effects of trauma, and the oft-cited rigidities of sexual identification—submissive/dominant; erotic/pathological. By virtue of reading McBride’s novel, the reader is directly implicated in moral questions of a sexual nature. I experienced this book as sexy, but also very confusing.

That said, we are all bound by our sexual histories, which impact our daily scripts in ways that so often go unnoticed—rarely are we summoned to interrogate our relations of desire. This, I think, is the genius of McBride’s writing: she does not allow her readers a pass at passivity, but through a unique method of storytelling she invites and entices you in, and then proceeds to unsettle the boundaries of your sense-making.

By virtue of reading McBride’s novel, the reader is directly implicated in moral questions of a sexual nature.

 “I’ve been naked, embarrassed, touched and kissed and brought the whole way like any woman might. So after that what is it to say            When I was little someone used to and now I don’t think I can any more. Then the past sits forward and the cold comes pouring in. He looks down at me What did you say?”

As these passages demonstrate, this book won’t be for everyone—stream of consciousness can be complicated that way—but I think fans of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing will find McBride’s narrative voice gains fluidity in this book. The pace is balanced, witty, well-versed; and with rhyming sequences so bouncy and original I found myself completely absorbed.

In sum: This is a fairy tale love story for the cynical and sexualized.

eimearmcbrideEimear McBride was born in 1976 and grew up in Ireland. Her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, was published in 2013 and catapulted the author to international recognition, earning her numerous prize nominations and wins. The novel won the 2013 Goldsmiths Prize, was shortlisted for the Folio Prize and won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2014. McBride currently lives in Norwich with her family. The Lesser Bohemians is her second novel. The author lives in Norwich, UK.

Danielle McNally
Danielle reads mostly contemporary fiction, and creative (memoir, cultural criticism, feminist theory etc.) non-fiction. She reads across time and place and is loyal to those who've captured her heart (Ali Smith, Maggie Nelson, Janet Malcolm, among other brilliant minds). She should probably read more books by men, but she's not losing sleep over it.