Uk News My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley gives an exquisite account of a twisted mother-daughter bond United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - The author considers the difficulties of communication in this savagely funny and deeply upsetting book
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! With her five slim, stylish previous novels – including 2017’s First Love, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize – Gwendoline Riley has proven herself masterful at capturing the power dynamics of relationships. First Love centred on a toxic marriage, and here we have another immaculately observed twisted bond: this time between a fortysomething academic named Bridget and her mother, Helen, nicknamed Hen.Hen bears a strong resemblance to the obstinate mother who appeared on the sidelines of First Love. Turning the spotlight fully on the character is a shrewd decision: Bridget’s tragicomic portrait of Hen as she looks back over their strained relationship is transfixing. The book touches on Hen’s childhood, Hen as a mother when Bridget was young, fraught annual birthday meals in London as Bridget moves to the city in adulthood, and – eventually – Hen’s bid for greater intimacy with her daughter as she approaches her seventies. Read More Gwendoline Riley: ‘My approach was to make it upsetting… But, hey, if people find that funny, then, yay!’The i newsletter latest news and analysisEmail address is invalidThank you for subscribing!Sorry, there was a problem with your subscription. Hen longs for companionship but can’t seem to sustain meaningful bonds. Divorced from Bridget’s late father, she devotes her life to a stream of amusingly preposterous social activities – from Victorian society meetings to Scottish Highland gatherings of the “Grant” clan, to which she is only tenuously linked. Despite these efforts, she has few friends. She chalks this up to the “eccentrics” she ends up with. However, by Bridget’s telling, Hen is a pretty acquired taste herself, with a chronic failure to engage with people. “She placed no value on the quality or substance of any encounter,” she notes dispassionately.Bridget is bewildered by how difficult to read and childish her mother can be, which means their own relationship mainly consists of “stubbed-toe, short-leash exchanges”.
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.My Phantoms is Gwendoline Riley’s sixth novel (Photo: Granta)The book is deeply sad and uncomfortable but savagely funny, too. Bridget charts the awkwardness between her and her mother with droll understatement, such as an ill-fated visit to a vegan café: “My mother was valiant with her detox salad,” she reports.Riley’s prose echoes the repressed trauma that suffuses the novel – spare and elegant on the surface, but heavy with oblique meaning. For example, we learn the extent of Bridget’s estrangement from her family through an offhand mention of a missed call from her sister, Michelle. “I knew something serious – something bad – must have happened when I saw Michelle’s name,” she writes.Bridget brings up the call when she is remembering the death of her father, a bullying, “king-of-the-castle 70s man”. It is implied that he was abusive towards her mother, and he was certainly stunningly inattentive to his children, paying them as much heed “as one might a dog’s distant barking”. Yet, loathsome as he was, Bridget is most haunted by Hen – and expends a huge amount of energy trying to understand, and thereby placate, her mother. “Keep shovelling in the bright friendliness; the treats… Keep shovelling it all in,” is her method for keeping their interactions sweet.For all Bridget’s impatience with Hen, this attentive, frequently empathetic psychological study ultimately seems like a complicated bid for connection. Once again, Riley has produced an exquisitely written account of the difficulties of communication – and how resentment and even revulsion can go hand in hand with love.My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley is published by Granta (£12.99)
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