Gwendoline Riley’s First Love and My Phantoms (Books acquired, 16 Aug. 2022)

NYRB is publishing two novels by Gwendoline Riley next month: First Love and My Phantoms. Both novels were previously published in the UK.

Blurb for First Love:

Neve is a writer in her mid-thirties married to an older man, Edwyn. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and her self-involved mother to a musician who played her and a series of lonely flights from place to place.

Drawing the reader into the battleground of her relationship, Neve spins a story of helplessness and hostility, an ongoing conflict in which both husband and wife have played a part. But is this, nonetheless, also a story of love?

And My Phantoms:
Helen Grant is a mystery to her daughter. An extrovert with few friends who has sought intimacy in the wrong places, a twice-divorced mother of two now living alone surrounded by her memories, Helen (known to her acquaintances as “Hen”) has always haunted Bridget.

Now, Bridget is an academic in her forties. She sees Helen once a year, and considers the problem to be contained. As she looks back on their tumultuous relationship—the performances and small deceptions—she tries to reckon with the cruelties inflicted on both sides. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, it seems an old struggle will have to be replayed.

From the prize-winning author of First LoveMy Phantoms is a bold, heart-stopping portrayal of a failed familial bond, which brings humor, subtlety, and new life to the difficult terrain of mothers and daughters.

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