My Phantoms: A mother-daughter relationship laid bare with raw ingenuity

Review: Gwendoline Riley’s latest novel perfectly captures the ennui of our times

Gwendoline Riley was nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize for her previous novel First Love. Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images

Gwendoline Riley was nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize for her previous novel First Love. Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images

“She’s clearly frightened of engaging. That’s a sad thing. A sad and defensive thing. Here’s a better way to put it, she was in an a priori reality.” This is how a character defines Bridget’s mother, Helen, in My Phantoms. 

First Love, Gwendoline Riley’s critically acclaimed previous novel, was nominated for both the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize. Both that and My Phantoms have starkly different premises, but are strikingly similar in terms of the narrative choices as they delve into fraught, dysfunctional familial relationships narrated solely from the protagonist’s point of view, giving us a blinkered perspective of their dynamics. 

The Irish Times
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