Bohemia Beach is a highly anticipated novel – the first work by Justine Ettler in twenty years. In many ways, it is a continuation of her oeuvre: a fast-paced, almost madcap tale about a wildly careening woman and the violent men she is drawn to, with obsession and addiction driving much of the narrative and narration. The novel is set largely in the Czech Republic in 2002, when the country was on the cusp of change: still dealing with the legacy of communism, but also turning towards the European Union and the market forces and systems that it entails.
The novel opens on the titular beach, in a dream-state narrated by the main character, Cathy, a prodigious concert pianist, whose increasingly erratic behaviour and alcoholism have caused her life – career, marriage, sense of self – to fall apart. Cathy has been hospitalised following an accident during the Hundred Years Water floods earlier that year, the worst floods ever to hit Prague, which saw widespread evacuations and destruction across the city (and elsewhere in Europe). What follows is an account of the chaotic and confusing events that preceded Cathy’s accident, as well as her attempts to recover her physical and emotional health in its aftermath, assisted by her pop-psychology-spouting ‘life guru’, Nelly, and her kindly doctor, Edgar.