Eimear McBride’s debut, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, won the Baileys Women’s Prize, stunning readers and judges alike with its incandescent prose. What this bold author was trying to do with her Joycean explosion of sentence fragments and rhythms, McBride has explained, was to “draw in all the disparate experiences of the body and the mind and…..express them simultaneously.” She uses this Stanislavkian “method writing” to equally mesmerizing effect in her second novel, The Lesser Bohemians (Hogarth, $26), which focuses on a group of actors in 1990s London. Eighteen-year-old Eily tells most of the story. Fresh from Ireland to study drama, she’s dazzled by everything about her new life. “I have a heart that I hope art will burn,“ she declares. In fact, her heart is burned—and pummeled, coveted, spurned, and cherished—by Stephen, an established actor twenty years Eily’s senior. But age is the least of this turbulent relationship’s complicating factors, and as the secrets and regrets come out, McBride relentlessly conveys the full charge of their psychological and physical impact. Stephen, especially, with his “body all battle,” is a brilliant portrait of what passion can do; with Eily we watch as it forces him to the edge of self-destruction, then pulls him back—a life-giving force that ultimately enables survival.
The Lesser Bohemians - Eimear McBride