First Love is the shortest of all the books selected in the Baileys Prize 2017 shortlist but this does not make it any less powerful.
Gwendoline Riley writes in a sober and sad style. There is a resignation about life that exudes from the main character who narrates in first person.
Neve, is stuck. She drifts through her life with a husband who at times could be considered abusive and whilst she does have thoughts about changing her circumstances she is plagued by a James Joycean sense of paralysis.
What makes this novel stand out though, is it’s beautiful poetic prose. There are times when it could almost be read as an epic poem or a powerful piece of spoken word. Riley holds nothing back, exposing the very inner being of Neve, how she became the woman she is and how she is powerless to stop what is happening to her. It is an extremely uncomfortable read and one that ends in a stomach-twisting way. An intense and oppressive read.
Is this a commentary on the Western version of common modern love? No – this is a trail of consciousness from a woman who believes that she does not deserve love.
About Gwendoline Riley
Gwendoline Riley is an English Writer and was born in London in 1979. She has published four novels: Cold Water, which won a Betty Trask Award, Sick Notes, Joshua Spassky, which was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and won the Somerset Maugham Award, and Opposed Positions.
First Love is her fifth novel.
First Love, published by Granta Books, is available to buy here.
For more information about the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction click here.
Thanks for reading!