First Love; the complexity, pain, failure, and abuse of love. A short novel, at 160 or so pages, when tense emotions ooze from the pages.


first love by gwendoline riley“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.” GoodReads.


Neve and Edwyn are married, and at first, it seems content but that Neve settled. As the novel progresses and Neve tells the reader about her past, her abusive and controlling father, self-involved mother (utterly unable to read other people) and brief romantic entanglement with the selfish musician she saw but once or twice a year, you realise that the people in Neve’s life take from her until she is more a product of their needs than anything else.

Eventually, we discover that Edwyn is a variant of her father, emotionally abusive and able to twist an argument at every turn to his favour. He constantly belittles her, accuses her of being selfish every time she expresses her own needs. During every argument, Edwyn brings up a moment where Neve got very drunk with her friends in his flat and when she awoke unable to remember the night before, he accuses her of throwing up everywhere which he then had to clean up. Edwyn uses it to cement his control when it is likely that Neve was never sick at all, he merely dislikes any moment she isn’t solely focused on him.

Ultimately Neve begins to unfurl and express herself, pushing Edwyn back, but the novel does not end with her leaving, she has no person to turn to. But, perhaps it ends with the hope of change.


What did you think of First Love?


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2017; A Reading Year In Review – of BooksMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – of BooksJenny @ Reading the End Recent comment authors

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Jenny @ Reading the End

Oof, this sounds rough. I feel like I’ve been hearing about a ton of books lately that deal with unhappy marriages — is that a thing? I guess there have always been books along those lines.


[…] to describe why I liked this novel so much, it’s almost beyond words. I loved it as I loved First Love by Gwendoline Riley – they are both sparse stories, telling you more in the gaps in the protagonist narration […]


[…] First Love – Gwendoline Riley […]