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The Lesser Bohemians

by Eimear McBride

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4129747,413 (3.27)59
A young Irish drama student in 1990s London makes new friends, establishes a place for herself, and seeks to shed her plain-girl identity before entering a whirlwind affair with an older man who changes her in unexpected ways.

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Some sort-of spoilers below.

This audiobook is read by the author. It is like a mash-up of Shakespeare and Beckett, with language that is rhythmic, rhyming, and allusive. I just started so not far in, but the language is so beautiful, in the service of youth and art...

This book is largely about sex and love, and the ways they intersect or don't. It's also about the sexual initiation of a young woman, newly arrived in London to go to acting school. The author writes about sex explicitly and poetically throughout--this might not be to every reader's liking. These are not fade-to-black sexual scenes; but McBride's writing in this regard is bold and sensitive--not like anything I've read before. Still, from my vantage point, it sometimes seems like a distant land and I wanted to wring the necks of those youngsters, for their lack of perspective and undaunted pursuit of their desires. But then again I was one once.

The central love story is counterpointed by experiences in the main characters' childhoods of disturbed love from adults, as well as by the dogged and responsible love a father feels for his daughter. The relationships all echo and reflect, and there are dawning awarenesses from several characters. McBride writes her protagonist's inner voice in the allusive and fragmentary style I mentioned above. It is beautiful and I didn't get lost in it, mainly I think because of the author's beautiful reading (I think this is a great book to listen to). Later, when the main character's lover tells the story of his youth, she switches to a more straightforward narrative, which serves his revelations well and makes they all the more powerful because of the unornamented language. Further, the characters remain nameless throughout much of the book--and only the two main characters ever acquire names. When the first name slipped in, I had to rewind to be sure of what I'd heard. Finally, the protagonist names the second character is a direct address to him. This whole thing, the naming, was perhaps what I loved most about the book. It was so powerful, the names making them "be" in a new way that was touching and made the trajectory of their relationship all the more coherent. ( )
  jdukuray | Jun 23, 2021 |
I was a fucking mess reading this book.
I don't think I've ever wept that much over a novel.
It's beautiful and just a tiny bit emotional. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
Third time lucky - as in, I'd tried to start reading this twice before and given up in the first few pages. The prose is certainly challenging, certainly experimental, but once you "get your ear in", the writing is solid and there are moments of brilliance. I loved "his lassitude and longitude", "daub my soul with a few good pints til my mouth swings wide with unutterable shite", "skitter I little and traitor knees" and then this:
But whistling down from the blue night it comes: I had not grasped that the sun still rose after I love you. Maybe he missed that also. So neither of us was careful enough and broke it before we’d understood. ( )
  DebsDd | Jan 18, 2021 |
I really enjoyed the writing style of this book once I got used to it. I think it captured well the fractured way our thoughts look when we obsess over a romantic interest. I didn't like the ending, but that may be more of a personal preference from my experiences than about the book itself. I don't think it was an error in style that the narrator was so myopic, but if I were her friend, I would tell her to focus a little more on her acting and date someone her own age...which speaks to how immersive the book is into the character's mind, that I feel like giving her advice! ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
This took some getting into to. I think it may have been better in print as there were very few indicaitons of chapter breaks within the audio meaning that it was best listened to in long stretches, which isn't always possible.
So, the words of warning to get out of the way first. This is quite explict. There is sex (a lot of sex) not all of it entirely consensual, there is child abuse that is described in graphic detail and it is, on the whole, quite unpleasant. But, if you can cope with that, there is a love story lurking in here somewhere. Eli is a first year drama student from rural Ireland. She meets a man much older than herself, an actor, and they have a one night stand. From their the relationship develops and meets all sorts of lumps and bumps in the road. It goes through some pretty dark places, but there is, at the end, a sense that these two wounded people can both help heal each other in a way that promises hope. It is not an easy listen, at times I did wonder what I had let myself in for. At times I didn't want to go back to the pain and suffering each had been throug - and were in danger of revisiting. It's hard going, but I was left with a positive impression of the book as a whole. ( )
  Helenliz | May 30, 2020 |
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For my father
John McBride
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I move. Cars move. Stock, it bends light. City opening itself behind. Here's to be for its life is the bite and would be start of mine.
I will remember this because, even though this morning's not much of his life, it's very much of mine.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A young Irish drama student in 1990s London makes new friends, establishes a place for herself, and seeks to shed her plain-girl identity before entering a whirlwind affair with an older man who changes her in unexpected ways.

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