Gwendoline Riley came to attention with her slim first novel “Cold Water” in 2002. Immediately acclaimed, it caused particular interest in Manchester, where she lived, where it was set, and where she’d studied creative writing a couple of years after me. As a young writer, she appeared fully-formed, with a fluid, expressive prose style that brought alive the somewhat mundane adventures in a Manchester dive bar, of Carmel, her protagonist. That bar, a barely disguised Night and Day Cafe on Oldham Street was, and is, one of Manchester’s little musical meccas – a first stop for any band in the city, and Riley’s debut was that rare success, a novel that accurately portrayed a still contemporary millieu, where young bands, writers and artists waited for success in appalling bedsits, and with minimum wage jobs. But whereas most novels of Northern verite, are grim in the extreme, Carmel was a dreamer, and Riley’s prose had some of the luminosity of literary hero Fitzgerald. Second novel “Sick Notes” came quickly after the first, and was almost a “part 2″ to the debut, whilst her third novel, “Joshua Spassky”, saw her relocate her vision to the United States. On the few occasions I met her or heard her read, I was always struck, not my her precocity, but her serious intent, and genuine admiration for good literature. The books remain far more lasting than their specific time and place might suggest, if only because of her fully-formed style. In 2012, after moving from Manchester to London, via Edinburgh, Riley’s 4th novel “Opposed Positions” was published, a recognisable continuation of her style that shows a maturing of her concerns.
Wikipedia entry for Gwendoline Riley