The stream-of-consciousness novel by Eimear McBride was a huge hit with the panel
With an undeniable crispness in the air, September’s edition of the Eason Book Club on the Pat Kenny Show brought with it some very warm news. “I’ve finally finished all of my treatment,” revealed singer Bryan Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. “Five and a half weeks of radiation. I feel like jumping off a mountain into the fresh, clean air!”
It was good news for former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister Mary O’Rourke, who will next week launch her own book, Letters of My Life, with none other than Pat Kenny helping her out in the National Library next week. And Katherine Lynch also had a busy month, have shed the pounds on Celebrity Operation Transformation. Fortunately, the panel members still found time to work through the new novel by Irish writer Eimear McBride, The Lesser Bohemians, even if it was, as Bryan said, sometimes challenging.
“It’s about a very young girl who goes to London and she meets a much, much older man,” explained Mary. “An actor, a preeminent one, very well recognised. I can’t say they fall for one... well, they fall sexually for one another. That’s the beginning and up to the middle, when she learns about his past, abused by his mother...”
“It’s quite something, that scene,” offered Bryan. “It’s one thing to be sitting in a cancer hospital, but it’s another when you’re reading that horrific sexual abuse.”
All three members of the panel were struck by McBride’s writing style, with her prose coming in waves of stream of consciousness. The novel, eight years in the writing, was completed during the period that the award-winning Irish writer was searching for a publisher that was willing to take on her now modern classic A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. As all of the Eason Book Club members agreed, her labour of love was worth the effort.
“The writing style is stream of consciousness, Eimear McBride is a huge Joyce fan,” Katherine Lynch said. “I think it’s absolutely amazing. I don’t like Joyce myself, but I loved this, it’s got so much light and dark. The most honest book I’ve read in a while, right to the core.”
Bryan admitted to having some initial reticence when he started The Lesser Bohemians. “When I first started reading this book, Pat, I was a bit like, ‘Oh no, this is like bad predictive texting, what does that mean?!’ On page 29, she talks about the ‘purple bang of left right in my chest,’ and she’s talking about her heart. Honestly, I started off really not liking this book, but by the end I really loved it.”
As ever, Pat welcomed a listener over the phone to speak about her experiences with Eimear McBride’s books and life as a book clubber. Tania Holly, whose club counts five mums in and around Raheny and Beaumont, meets with the other four once and month and has been for the last seven years. And much like Bryan Kennedy, despite early reservations, once they had committed to the book, they felt it was worth the perseverance.
“A little difficult, mixed reviews, but all in all, we’d be leaning towards saying we liked it. Just as Bryan and your panel said, not a book that you pick up and get straight into,” Tania said. “It’s not a bedtime read, we’re busy mums, so that’s when we normally read. But it was well worth making time for.”
October’s choice rests with Katherine Lynch, who will tell Pat on Monday which one of the following four books she’s chosen: Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy by Jason Byrne, A Life in Question by Jeremy Paxman, Keeping on Keeping on by Alan Bennett, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
You listen back to September’s Eason Book Club, please play the embedded podcast below: