New fiction: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

McBride has pulled off a trick of language better than a virtual reality headset, allowing a tour of a lost London and of strong feelings of lust, pain and joy

Eily is new to the city and new to her drama school and, as she feels it, new to life. She’s living in mid-1990s Camden, before the internet and before the smoking ban, in a world of tatty bedsits and ungentrified pubs. In one such pub she meets Stephen, a working actor 20 years her senior.

The two start having sex, talking about Dostoyevski and Nick Cave along the way. The affair begins casually, but becomes surprisingly intense for both of them. They are both people with hidden layers and secrets.

McBride’s writing can, at first, seem fractured and jumpy; it takes a while to adjust to the rhythms. But once it clicks for you, you become immersed in Eily’s world. This is a huge advantage in a novel about going to bed with someone, the sex in The Lesser Bohemians reads like sex feels, both physically and emotionally. McBride has pulled off a trick of language as good, better, than a virtual reality headset, allowing a tour of a lost London and of strong feelings of lust, pain and joy.

Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians is published by Faber and Faber (£16.99)

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