First Love

Gwendoline Riley

Published: 7 September 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 176 pages
ISBN: 9781783783243

About the author


‘[Filled] with moments of humour and tenderness’



‘[With] rich character depictions [...] Riley teases out a series of painful but exquisitely comedic episodes’ John Burnside

A book of extraordinary potency that does full justice to the appalling tangles into which the heart can lead us’ Stephanie Cross

A short but devastating sucker punch of a book’ Eleanor Franzen

Compelling from the beginning. In precise, economic prose Riley conveys a sense of Edwyn and Neve's intimate relationship... An engrossing novel and Riley's writing shines throughSusannah Butter

Devastating and stylishAlex Preston

Eviscerating, elegant, explosive... First Love resonates a power that is bittersweet and highly affecting’ Francesca Wade

Exceptionally good... an impossible little wonder of a book, terrifying and horrible... Take up the gauntlet with Gwendoline Riley: it's worth it’ Alex Clark

Exquisite... searing... we are also left with the stinging sense of having been loved...’ Philly Malicka

From Turgenev's First Love to Gwendoline Riley's is not so very far; the same panoptic, all-too-human lurches, afflictions and doubts, gorgeously exposed. Riley's artistry continues to signal the rueful need to narrate - yet the nobility of that impulse: undetermined, impetuous, diffident - just as we live and love - with heartbreak always in wait’ Alan Warner

Gwendoline Riley writes beautifully and memorably. First Love is evocative, often funny, and, towards the end, very moving’ David Szalay

Outstanding... shot through with moments of almost sinister tenderness’ Anthony Cummins

Visceral... almost impossible to turn away fromAnthony Cummins

‘A book which unflinchingly explores toxic relationships... A beguiling novel’ Theresa Munoz

‘A brutal book and it will stay with you long after the hundred and sixty pages are over, but Riley manages to inject it with a thin vein of black humour’ Daniel Carpenter

‘A modern-day Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

‘An incisive and often chilling portrait of the narrator's mother: one of the great comic monsters of recent fiction’ James Walton

‘An intimate, uncompromising anatomy of love and revulsion between husband and wife, child and parents, from a writer of singular vision

‘Expect to read a forensic discussion of the ordinariness of life rendered bittersweet’ Elizabeth White

‘Gwendoline Riley [is] a fascinating novelist... She takes a familiar theme of midlife minor angst and focuses in, closer and closer, until the banal becomes surreal, even beautiful. The effect is beguiling... First Love is an exquisite and combative piece of news from nowhere - which is everywhere, tooJoanna Kavenna

‘Makes you question what love is... [Riley] should be on every literary lover's bookshelfSharmaine Lovegrove

‘Riley brings you up short with almost every spiky sentence in this stealthy, penetrating novel that recasts love as a dark, terrific puzzle, perhaps never to be solvedClaire Allfree

‘Riley is a writer who cuts right to the heart of things... raw, fierce and trueRupert Thomson

‘Riley writes in pared-back, deceptively light sentences that twist and turn the emotional landscape almost imperceptibly. Dialogue, too, is witheringly precise, often funny. First Love says something very honest about relationships’ Francesca Angelini

‘Riley's First Love maps the ins and outs of human emotion. It will dazzle you

‘Riley's descriptive powers [are] masterful... First Love is suffused with gems... Original and unforgettableViolet Hudson

‘Riley's prose is so electric, so alive with humour and insight and passion, that by the end you will want to stand up and cheer’ Paul Murray

‘This exquisite, disquieting novella is a minute portrait of a marriage that disintegrates into a horror in such gradual steps that each feels like a sting’

‘This is, in a truly wonderful way, a perfectly horrible little novel... It is exact and exacting, [told] in pristine prose... Without giving away the ending, there is no simple ending... It is a plagal cadence, a wistful, imperfect resolution, a kind of blessing in its own way’ Stuart Kelly

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