Book Review: First Love, by Gwendoline Riley
First Love, by Gwendoline Riley
First Love
By Gwendoline Riley
Melville House
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Although they’re not my favorite types of books, I’ve been known to enjoy novels that are primarily dense character studies and that contain only minimalist plots; but for me to really get into such a book, it needs to be almost perfectly done, full of such rich and complex characterization that I’m naturally compelled to keep following along, despite the absence of “what happened next” type material, which I usually consider to go hand-in-hand with good contemporary literature.

And although Gwendoline Riley’s First Love makes a valiant effort at this, it still falls a bit short, a novel that spends its time spinning its heels just a little too much; the story of young British wife Neve, who can’t seem to work up the courage to walk away from a bad marriage she’s in the middle of, this book essentially tries to explain the reasons why by taking a broad, hyper-detailed look at all the other relationships in Neve’s life, not only the current ones but also through deep dives into her past.

It’s all written well-enough, and those who are bigger fans than me of delicate, academic-oriented writing will find much to love; but if like me you also enjoy your novels having strong three-act spines, you’ll find your interest in Neve and her endeavors sputtering out about halfway through the book’s page count, becoming an increasing slog to finish with each subsequent chapter. Not a bad book by any means, it simply wasn’t good enough for me to be enthusiastic about it, although others are sure to disagree with that assessment.

Out of 10: 7.9

Read even more about First Love: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd