Opposed Positions, by Gwendoline Riley

Article published on May 28, 2012.

Opposed Positions is Gwendoline Riley’s newest novel, which revolves around thirty year old Aislinn Kelly, a novelist. The best way I can describe the plot of the novel is to say it is essentially a collection of Aislinn’s memories or ‘flashbacks’ regarding her somewhat dark family history, consisting of a bullying father, her mother’s life with Aislinn’s father, then her unhappy second marriage. Aislinn also reflects on the friendships she has formed with various characters over the years, some good, and some bad.

Opposed Positions is the first book I have read by Gwendoline Riley, so it took me a few chapters to warm to her distinctive and quite unique writing style. There is not an overload of detail, it is straight to the point and gives a good, brisk impression of the characters.

However, it is not over explanatory as to when and where events are taking place, and who or what is being discussed at points, leaving me to do a bit of guess-work. The story doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle and end to leave readers satisfied. The narrative jumps a few years here and there, putting Aislinn with new people and in a new place, yet having said this; there would be no story if it all took place in only a month or so. But having warmed to it, I was able to focus on the novel, which I finished within a day.

To write a book about reality and family life and relationships, it is important to make it as realistic as possible. This is something Riley deals with very well; she doesn’t shy away from difficult family situations, for example, Aislinn’s father. He is obviously going to be a very unlikable character from the beginning, but he is still her father, and as we all well know, you can’t change who your family is. You can only avoid them – a tactic Aislinn uses to her advantage.

But perhaps this is not a novel for enjoying but a book exploring people, the difficult situations they must overcome and the various places life takes them to. Opposed Positions is a short book, but it is told thought a fresh new voice and a talented writer. I look forward to future work from Riley, and hope to see a sequel to Opposed Positions one day.


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