Fiction Review: The Lesser Bohemians

lesser bohemians.jpg

Title: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
Genre: Adult Fiction
Rating: DNF

Oof. This wasn’t a pleasant ride, friends, and I DNF’d at page 80, something I am really loathe to do unless a book is not enriching my life whatsoever. That said, there’s some strong points to this sensuous, experimental novel, and I want to give them their due.

The Lesser Bohemians is told from the point of view (deep point of view, you might say) of an eighteen-year-old Irish girl who moves to London to study acting in the 90′s. There she meets an established actor in his late thirties, and the two fall into bed together and being a tortuously on-again, off-again affair of sex, frustration and reconciliation, healing, and harm.

The steam-of-consciousness style narration is much more accessible than other times I’ve seen it used, although it took me until about page fifty to really settle into the dreamy, internalizing rhythm. McBride’s done something really wonderful here with dialogue and action all running together, and the narrator’s personal thoughts slipped furtively in between in smaller print. It’s a feat, and she ought to be given credit for it.

That said, the narrative style keeps the reader suspended between raw euphoria and drunken disorientation, which made the constant barrage of blackout nights, substance overindulgence, repressed vulnerability, and screamed betrayals incredibly unpleasant for me. At almost 100 pages into the narrative there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel of alienation, compulsive behavior, and budding addiction. I would hype myself up to finish the book and then only get ten or fifteen pages in before getting so upset that I had to put it down because the secondhand sexual shame and impostor syndrome were too strong. However, that sort of visceral reaction is a testament to the book’s main strength: entirely immersive storytelling. You’re as close to this narrator as fiction is liable to allow you to get, and you experience all her anxieties and hopes in your own body, adrenaline and all.

This DNF isn’t a mark against the strength of McBride’s writing. The beautiful prose just wasn’t enough payoff for the subject matter for me, but that’s not to say that will be true for every reader. Maybe McBride’s next novel will pair her astonishing talent for voice with a story I find more worth telling, and I can give her another shot then.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of The Lesser Bohemians by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Fiction Review: The Halloween Tree

Title: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Gris Grimly
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

The Halloween Tree is one of the most genuinely delightful books I have read in a long time. I’ve been a fan of Bradbury for some time, and he’s well known for his prolific contributions to American literature as well as his innovative writing style. The Halloween tree offers up the best of Bradbury, from his gleeful menage of metaphors and onamonapia  to his strong thematic sense, in a slim little book suitable for readers age “11 and up”.

On Halloween night in the American heartland, eight young boys gather for a evening of costumed carousing. Their revels lead them to the creaky gothic manor of the eccentric and ancient Mr. Moundshroud, who reveals to them the enormous Halloween tree, bedecked with thousands of flame-mouthed jack-o-lanterns. When something dark arises out of the shadows to snag the most beloved of the gang, Pipkin, Moundshroud leads the boys on a merry journey through Halloweens past in the hopes of finding Pipkin and rescuing him.

The book thrusts its reader into ancient Egypt, the old Britain of the Druids, Notre Dame herself, and the glowing graveyards of Mexico at breakneck speed. The narrative is immersive, and full of the spiced scents and sweet tastes of a hundred Halloweens. As far as the spooky factor goes, the book is more of an eerie adventure than anything resembling horror, so even the most scare-adverse readers can settle in to enjoy it. The illustrations by Gris Grimly (cover art featured above) set the perfect mood and embody the freedom of movement in the writing style. I would have enjoyed a little girl or two getting in on the adventure, and indeed this book contains not a single female character, but since The Halloween Tree was published in 1972, I’m willing to to chalk that up to a product of it’s time.

Though the story is simple and the page-count a modest 145, the book explores the history of Halloween, the indissoluble bonds of childhood friendship, and the way humans both ancient and modern have dealt with the passing of light into darkness, and life into death. You’ve heard of the true meaning of Christmas; it wouldn’t be unfair to  say The Halloween Tree serves up the true meaning of Halloween in all is dark, gleeful glory.