Book Review – First Love by Gwendoline Riley


Goodreads Synopsis:

From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage.

Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.


I’m currently trying to work my way through the shortlist for the Bailey’s Prize and as this one looked the shortest, I figured I may as well cross it off first.

I didn’t read the synopsis before starting this book, but the book is basically exactly what it says. It’s a series of snapshots of Neve’s life showing her daily activities and her emotionally abusive relationship. There’s not much plot, it’s rather an in-depth character study of Neve and we slowly learn more about her, and her relationship.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of these types of novels however the writing was absolutely excellent and I can definitely see why it was shortlisted. Unfortunately, this was just not a book I enjoyed reading. The abusive relationship between her and her husband, Edwyn, was quite painful to read and I would definitely say to be very careful when reading it if you’ve been in an abusive relationship yourself as it distressed me greatly and brought back memories I try and not think about. Of course, the reason this distressed me so much was because the characters were so well written and it was so realistic to me.

So yes, although I personally did not enjoy this book at all and was greatly distressed by it, I do recognise how brilliant it is and it’s an excellent and realistic portrayal of a woman who is stuck in an abusive relationship. If that is something you feel comfortable reading about, then I would definitely recommend it but with heavy, heavy trigger warnings for domestic abuse.


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