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Gwendoline Riley

Novelist, Short-story writer
School of Advanced Study, University of London

Gwendoline Riley is a novelist and short-story writer. Her short, sharp novels are written in the first person and the narrators are women trying to sound out their lives by considering the strange forces and impulses which have brought them to whatever straits they find themselves in.

Her first novel, Cold Water (Jonathan Cape, 2002), was told in the voice of an alienated young barmaid in a dive bar in Manchester and explored her life among the misfit regulars there. It won the Betty Trask award and was named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the five best debut novels of that year. Her third novel, Joshua Spassky (Jonathan Cape, 2007), was set in Asheville, North Carolina, and centred on a bibulous couple deciding if they were right for each other. It won the Somerset Maugham award. Riley’s fifth novel, First Love (Granta, 2017) tells the story of a woman stranded – or perhaps squatting – in a poisonous marriage to an older man. It won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial prize.

Riley has written for the TLS and the Review of Contemporary Fiction. She has been a tutor for the Arvon Foundation, given masterclasses at several universities, and for four years taught creative writing at Keele University. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her current project is another novel, My Phantoms, which again explores a psychological impasse through the voice of an exacting female narrator. Riley lives in west London with her husband.

Gwendoline Riley
Image credit: Adrian Laurie


School of Advanced Study, University of London 2019-21
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