Review: The Lesser Bohemians

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 5 stars

My first impression of this book was that it was unreadable. However I am so glad I persevered because it was truly amazing.

The Lesser Bohemians spans the first year of an Irish drama student in London, set in a period which resembles the 90s, who gets involved with an older man. The style of the novel is what initially makes it quite difficult – it is almost like stream of consciousness,  which makes it feel quite Modernist, clearly owing something to Joyce.

However, once you get into the style and get used to the flow it is actually beautiful, rhythmic and lyrical. Sentences trail off, interruptions occur, distractions happen – it is very real, physically real, and an intriguing way of writing. Somewhat ironically the language becomes more lucid and easier to read as the novel progresses.

Aside from the language the characters are interesting and mysterious – with most only given names towards the end of the novel, including the narrator herself. This has a great effect as I found some of their monikers quite surprising after I got to know the character.

Equally the plot is compelling while still remaining undefined – we are never quite sure where it is going, which is part of the plot itself, as the characters themselves don’t know either. There are plot events which came as a surprise, and without wanting to give away any spoilers, the content is difficult and could potentially be triggering.

However, the issues were well dealt with, illustrating the complexities of these issues. The book explores different kind of relationships and their natures, for better and for worse. This book made me feel so much; it made me laugh, cry, feel awkward and feel horrified. I sympathised with the characters, I hated them and I was tearing my hair out over their actions. The book challenged my romantic side, and it felt like it was doing this very deliberately, constantly undermining my rose-tinted expectations while building them back up again.

It is a difficult book to discuss without giving anything away, but I loved it for the beautiful, evocative language, the experimental style and for being so moving. I am so glad that I persisted because otherwise I would have missed this incredible book.

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