In Review

Novel of the week: My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

A ‘precise and bleak-humoured portrait’ of dysfunctional family relationships

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Gwendoline Riley is known for writing short, unsentimental novels that hover “on the edge of comedy and bleakness”, said Madeleine Feeny in The Spectator. My Phantoms, her sixth such book, is narrated by Bridget, a fortysomething academic, and focuses on her strained relationship with her late mother Helen. Helen, a woman “miserably yet willingly shackled to convention”, remained incapable of genuine engagement even when in the final throes of cancer. Painfully funny and acute, this novel is a “distilled psychological tour de force”. 

It is, indeed, a “well-made” piece of fiction, but it isn’t much fun to read, said Melissa Katsoulis in The Times. Despite the publisher calling it “remorselessly funny”, it proves to be a “clipped, panicky” tale that points to a “very British sort of dysfunction and offers no solutions”. As ever, Riley is superb at exposing the self-deceptions on which her characters’ lives are based, said N. J. Stallard in Literary Review. A “precise and bleak-humoured portrait” of family dynamics, My Phantoms is another “masterpiece in compression”.

Granta 208pp £12.99; The Week Bookshop £9.99

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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