Eimer McBride’s second novel, The Lesser Bohemians takes a lot of elements that were present in her debut, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing but improves on it, thus making this novel a more enjoyable read.
I don’t really want to repeat the main plot as it has been done in nearly every review I’ve read but I will go into the main theme of The Lesser Bohemians and that is love in all its forms. At the start we have erotic love (eros) which develops into what is known as true love (agape). So without saying there is a ton of sex in the beginning of the book, however as the love unfolds the couple in the book – an 18 year old student and a 40 year old actor start to reveal their true selves and this is where the book just elevates to a whole new level. In fact when the actor is telling his life story McBride takes a break from using her trademark self conscious stream of thought prose and reverts to a readable style.
From this point on the book becomes a sort of condensed version of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. It is a sordid account but it is totally essential to the plot as it delves into other types of love that exists, brotherly love (filigia) selfish love, selfless love, love for material objects.It portrays the male protagonist in the book as a complex character, which totally different from the initial idea we readers get from him at the start of the novel.
I have read that the female protagonist is nothing but empty and submissive but this far from the truth. Since she is narrating the story she undergoes an evolution as well, from a meek girl who has a low opinion of her body, to a girl who understands the power of her gender to compassionate, yet rational lover and listener. Both through these character McBride unleashes her message: Love is strong, even when there are hurdles.
As with experimental authors, the writing style will polarize. McBride’s writing may appear haphazard. There is use of alliteration, half-formed sentences, font size varies, even couplets appear but if the reader gives it a chance you have an oddly poetic novel and halfway through the book that style changes.
The Lesser Bohemians is a beautiful novel which is stuffed with many heartbreaking moments and although the subject matter is tough, the book is an rewarding experience.