Quote of the book: ‘And the fall that was coming has come here now. We welcome it. Leap down into it. Cannot wait to see how far.’
A brutally honest book demands a brutally honest review.
When I first began reading this book, I almost gave up during the opening pages. Last year, I read A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing and I would not say that I ‘enjoyed’ it. That being said, I still finished it, I still vividly remember it and I still found myself eagerly beginning this one. Reading McBride’s debut novel was akin to watching a car crash, never easy on the eye in the traditional aesthetic sense, but utterly engrossing all the same.
It was through this debut novel that Eimear McBride shocked the publishing world with her game-changing use of the English language. It was almost entirely original and seemed to break every English grammatical rule out there. For this reason alone, it came very close to never existing in the public eye at all until some brave publisher in Norwich decided to take a chance. And what an overwhelming success that greeted this gamble. Along with respectable sales, the more respectable Goldsmiths Prize and Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize soon followed and now The Lesser Bohemians has arrived upon a tidal wave of expectation. You see, once you get beyond the mechanics of McBride’s writing, you realise that her work reads like poetry.
My next brutally honest revelation is that there is a lot of sex in this book. Within the innocuous front and back covers hides sexual activity in all its forms and descriptions and at very regular intervals too! Sexual activity might even be identified as the medium of how this story is largely told, but don’t let that get in the way of a great read.
I thought that this book was stunning. Once I got past the initial confusion of those opening pages and committed to the story and characters I could not put it down. For me, McBride’s unique style seemed to suit this story much better than the plot of her previous novel, but maybe that’s because it is easier for me to relate to an Irish student living in a new city.
Definitely, I thought that once McBride got into the meat of her novel, she even relaxed her short, abrupt sentences for a steadier and more flowing form of consciousness. Once immersed in this style of writing you forget how you usually engage with text. I was halfway through before I realised I didn’t know any of the main characters names. Missus. Flatmate. Her. Him. Their thoughts, words and most subtle actions became much more important that such menial details.
Early on in the novel, some second year students tell our protagonist that college life and all it entails will ‘kick you to the bricks then desert to rebuild. Deconstruct you…’ and this only hints at what is to come. Never before have I witnessed such an engrossing and, importantly, believable character journey. Told over the course of a year and split into the three terms of a college first year, the girl we meet at the beginning is a very different person by the end of the book.
“We are long nights from the beginning. Come light years from the start. Now he waits, set for pain while I, it seems, hold the sword but I say All I want is you”
It is the story of her lover that will stay with you forever though. About half way through the book we get a monologue of his awful life experience to date. Told in one sitting over the course of several hours, this passage reads as a novel in its own right. This tale of woe has to be the greatest character monologue that I have ever read. I challenge any reader out there to put the book down during this stage.
The finest compliment that I give Eimear McBride is that her work is very close to being unquotable. Just as you can’t copy Mona Lisa’s smile without losing the beauty of the entire work, this book stands solid in its entirety as an unflinching portrayal of love and lust.
‘When I first came here I wanted the world to look at me and now I might prefer to be the eye instead.’
Would I recommend this book to a friend?
Yes in a sense that anyone who appreciates good writing and also appreciates reading something completely different. I would openly stand by my recommendation of this book as a great read and encourage everyone to embrace and thusly become engrossed in it.
If you are anyway prudish about sex however, stay well away!
This book reminded me of Marion O’Neill’s All God’s Dead in some aspects. If liked The Lesser Bohemians, look it up.
I received a digital copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”