A bold yet nuanced mapping of a mother-daughter relationship gone awry, My Phantoms is an arresting portrait of one family’s inner battles from the award-winning author of First Love.
Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2022
Helen Grant is a mystery to her daughter.
An extrovert with few friends who has sought intimacy in the wrong places; a twice-divorced mother-of-two now living alone surrounded by her memories, Helen (known to her acquaintances as 'Hen') has always haunted Bridget. Now, Bridget is an academic in her forties. She sees Helen once a year, and considers the problem to be contained.
As she looks back on their tumultuous relationship - the performances and small deceptions - she tries to reckon with the cruelties inflicted on both sides. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, it seems an old struggle will have to be replayed.
From the prize-winning author of First Love, My Phantoms is a bold, heart-stopping portrayal of a failed familial bond, which brings humour, subtlety and new life to the difficult terrain of mothers and daughters.
Publisher: Granta Books
Weight: 151 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 12 mm
What a phenomenal ear she has, and how remorselessly funny she is - My Phantoms is unmissably good
'My Phantoms is the funniest and bleakest book I have read in a long time. It's also the most moving - unexpectedly, perhaps, as it sets about capturing the awful comedy of a particularly English kind of sourness: one that takes perverse delight in disappointment and calamity. Gwendoline Riley's talent for making characters live, and her skill for identifying the essential moment, word or gesture, is immense'
Devastated by this novel. Gwendoline Riley can draw character like nobody else. The weight each pristine, witty sentence carries! This is life, its aches, its silences, its love, what is carried and left unsaid. Her prose is so sharp you could cut yourself on it
I read My Phantoms with great pleasure. It's a wonderful combination of achingly sad and subversively funny, simultaneously sharp and tender, and always finely observed. The dialogue is pitch perfect. The relationships are agonising. It's a subtle book, with big themes lightly drawn and precisely rendered, about how to live and how to love
A writer of singular vision
Take up the gauntlet with Gwendoline Riley: it's worth it
[Riley] fixes her parents on the page with darkly comic precision, mercilessly attendant to their tics and repetitions... Deliciously uncomfortable
Riley's novels get under your skin. My Phantoms is unsettling for many reasons - the way it picks at the scab of unconditional love, the way it interrogates questions of inheritance and influence. More than anything, though, it's the fact that it chips away at the compact between reader and narrator... devastating, bleak, unforgettable
Insidiously powerful... There's a lot of sentimental, affirmative fiction about femininity out there at the moment. This jagged little novel stands as a bracing corrective
Riley is a laureate of the stilted, and the dialogue crackles with repetitions, unsaid ellipses, contradictions... There is a great deal of psychological perceptiveness in this slim novel... [My Phantoms sets] itself apart, and is vital, and dashing
By some way Riley's best book, a crisply devastating record of a mother-daughter dynamic
A masterpiece in compression... My Phantoms leaves us with a precise and bleak-humoured portrait of the phantoms that can haunt a family
One for anyone who has struggled with their relationship with their mother. Riley dials up the tension as she skewers familial love
Gwendoline Riley's unsentimental fiction hovers on the edge of comedy and bleakness... My Phantoms is a distilled psychological tour de force from an exceptional writer
Riley misses nothing, and her icy evocations of dysfunction and distress are unforgettable
Riley has the ability to draw out the subtle workings and cruelties of relationships and psyches, and wrest them into compact, hard-hitting stories
Deeply sad and uncomfortable but savagely funny, too... Riley's prose echoes the repressed trauma that suffuses the novel - spare and elegant
My Phantoms is completely devastating
A riveting, merciless little novel
One of those books in which nothing much happens and everything happens... a brilliant brief, acerbic, witty, dark read that I can't recommend heartily enough
Unsettlingly funny and sharply observant... With notes of Sally Rooney's style in its tightly-written dialogue
My Phantoms effectively captures the ennui of our times... raw ingenuity
Unflinching and excruciating, but at times grimly hilarious
Riley's seventh novel is a slender, quietly savage riposte to the sentimentality that so often defines depictions of family bonds
A novel of squirmy, excruciating humour but also poignancy and pathos... Riley's ear for how people speak, and how to render that in the artifice of the novel, has never been deployed more successfully
A brilliant novel... Riley has always been especially skilled at psychological minutiae
Short but exceptionally hard-hitting
As droll as it is unnerving
Unsettlingly funny and sharply observant
Bleak, tough-minded, reeking with irony
A short, sharp shock of a novel [...] funny and devastating
· A masterpiece of cruel precision and vivid emotional realism about a thwarted mother-daughter relationship [...] A genuinely extraordinary book
A slim but brilliant novel - managing to pull off caustic humour and heartbreaking sadness, often within the same line - and it confirms Riley as one of the most talented young writers in the UK today
Riley's writing is precise; her ability to pick up on human fallibility merciless... A work of genius