My Phantoms | Granta

  • Published: 01/04/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783783267
  • Granta Books
  • 208 pages

My Phantoms

Gwendoline Riley

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.

What a phenomenal ear she has, and how remorselessly funny she is - My Phantoms is unmissably good

Kevin Barry, author of, Night Boat to Tangier

'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'

Chris Power, author of MOTHERS

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

Elizabeth Macneal

The Author

GWENDOLINE RILEY was born in London in 1979 and has been hailed as one of the most significant young British writers. She is is the author of First Love, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Literature, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Gordon Burn Prize, and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Cold Water, Sick Notes, Joshua Spassky and Opposed Positions. She has also been awarded a Betty Trask Award and a Somerset Maugham Award, and has been shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 2018, the Times Literary Supplement named her as one of the twenty best British and Irish novelists working today.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

First Love

Gwendoline Riley

‘A singular, devastating journey into the ungovernable reaches of the heart’ Observer


Neve is a writer in her mid-30s married to an older man, Edwyn. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and her self-involved mother to a musician who played her and a series of lonely flights from place to place.

Drawing the reader into the battleground of her relationship, Neve spins a story of helplessness and hostility, an ongoing conflict in which both husband and wife have played a part. But is this, nonetheless, also a story of love?

Gwendoline Riley on

Fiction | Granta 154

My Phantoms

Gwendoline Riley

‘I’m not sure I even thought of him as a person, really. He was more just this – phenomenon.’

Five Things Right Now | Granta 154

Gwendoline Riley | Five Things Right Now

Gwendoline Riley

Gwendoline Riley on Caspar David Friedrich, sketching and Chekhov.

Fiction | Granta 136

First Love

Gwendoline Riley

‘It must be a dreadful cross: this hot desire to join in with people who don’t want you.’