Source : The Guardian
With her novel First Love, the 39-year-old author joins eminent former winners including Seamus Heaney and Alice Oswald
Gwendoline Riley’s unsparing depiction of an abusive relationship in her novel First Love has won her the Geoffrey Faber memorial prize.
First Love, the English author’s fifth book, is an exploration of the power dynamics in romantic relationships, revealed through the unstable and toxic partnership of writer Neve and her husband Edwyn, whose self-pity and ego dominate their lives. In his review for the Observer, Stuart Evers called it “an uncomfortable book – one of naked truths, of unvarnished life, written in sentences that surprise in their collision of beauty and savagery. It shows a writer at the very height of her powers, grappling and snaring her themes into a singular, devastating journey into the ungovernable reaches of the heart.”
The £1,500 award, given to a poetry collection and a novel on alternating years, goes to a writer aged 40 or under. It has previously been won by authors including Seamus Heaney, Julian Barnes and Alice Oswald.
Author Evie Wyld, who judged this year’s prize with Lorien Kite, deputy life and arts editor at the Financial Times and Susie Nicklin, the publishing group MILD, said the choice of Riley was unanimous.
“It’s a book of nerve endings and often brutal truthfulness,” Wyld said of First Love. “It’s slim but has a powerful gravitational field, each word placed with expert care. In its unpicking of an abusive relationship, it feels both powerfully urgent and a novel that will be studied for years for its beauty, horror and humour.”
“There are so many writers and poets I admire who’ve won this prize in the past. I’m surprised and delighted to have joined them,” Riley said. “I am grateful to the judges and grateful, too, to my agent and publisher, without whose support this never would have been possible.”
Riley, who at 39 just meets the prize’s criteria, has previously won the Betty Trask and Somerset Maugham awards. First Love was also shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s prize for fiction, the Goldsmiths prize, the Dylan Thomas prize, the Gordon Burn prize and the James Tait Black memorial prize.
Riley is the sixth female winner of the Geoffrey Faber memorial prize in a row. When it began in 1964, the prize initially skewed male, with no woman winning until Carolyn Slaughter took it in 1977.
Last year’s winner, debut poet Kim Moore, also examined abusive relationships in her collection The Art of Falling, which drew from her own experience of domestic violence.