The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

Love, innocence, and drama school: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride


The Lesser Bohemians in an in-your-face, beautifully written novel about an eighteen-year-old Irish girl who arrives in London to start drama school. Despite her naivety, she is quickly taken in by the city, but it is when she meets an older actor and learns to shed her innocence about love and lust that she really becomes sucked into London and into the life it has offered her. It is a novel about the intensity of a love affair and overcoming the lingering past, with a 90s London backdrop and a distinctive style.

McBride writes in a poetic and stark way, a style that hurtles through the excitement, passion, and fear of  Eily’s point of view, using a kind of stilted stream-of-consciousness that takes a moment to get into, but works well once you are. It might not be readable for everyone, but it makes The Lesser Bohemians stand out as a book that gets across the intensity of her new life in North London through this unusual writing. The narrative mainly focuses on characters’ feelings and secrets than events, with the acting very much in the background, giving yet more sense of how Eily’s emotions have drowned out everything else. This is a stylish, exciting novel, a kind of harsh poem about the highs and lows of love and youth.

(Sidenote: The Lesser Bohemians was on the Bailey’s Prize longlist this year. Also check out my reviews of Hag-Seed and The Essex Serpent, both also on the longlist, and, even more importantly, Stay With Me and The Sport of Kings, both on the shortlist right now.)