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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Clarity of Vision
As a refugee from the previous Century I look to modern novels to provide me with some comprehension of modern times. The world that narrator Aislinn Kelly inhabits is disturbing. Modern modes of communication are used to convey generally unpleasant feelings, to create non-specific threats and a sense on unease. Her father sends aggressive e-mails. Friends make...
Published on 30 May 2012 by Walter M. Holmes

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable book focussing on misogyny
There is a reason why Gwendoline Riley has something of a cult following. She is technically innovative and very good at what she does, but the subject matter is invariably dark and downbeat which prevents mass market appeal. In that respect "Opposed Positions" is very much business as usual then. The subject matter most evident here is misogyny and the damaging impact it...
Published on 16 May 2012 by Ripple


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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Clarity of Vision, 30 May 2012
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This review is from: Opposed Positions (Hardcover)
As a refugee from the previous Century I look to modern novels to provide me with some comprehension of modern times. The world that narrator Aislinn Kelly inhabits is disturbing. Modern modes of communication are used to convey generally unpleasant feelings, to create non-specific threats and a sense on unease. Her father sends aggressive e-mails. Friends make unwelcome calls on mobile phones. Her mother's new husband hides behind his 'funny' voices and a newly acquired tuba. Which is perhaps the best use of that unwieldy instrument.
Aislinn, a precise observer and published novelist, associates with some somewhat rancid men and escapes intermittently to America, perhaps to write.
I admired the writing and the unflinching honesty. I am not so positive about the heroine. It did get me worried when she picked up some drunken man at a bar. Her intelligence and perspicacity show through, but there is a steel cold chill about her observation of humanity.
Gwendoline Riley is a courageous author. She sees her characters with clarity and doesn't much care for what she sees.
I thought of describing the novel as Sartrian but while hell can be other people Sartre's vision covered a wider range! On the back cover, referring to "Joshua Spassky", an earlier novel by Riley that I enjoyed, we get comparisons with Virginia Woolf, and Carson McCullers. It is a while since I read the latter but apparently she said that her central theme was 'spiritual isolation'. That sounds about right!
"Opposite Positions" is in this league and is well worth reading. The underlying tension and latent aggression is uncomfortable. Aislinn and the rest of the cast are strong characters but can be difficult company. The entire novel is uncompromising, and rings true.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable book focussing on misogyny, 16 May 2012
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Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Opposed Positions (Hardcover)
There is a reason why Gwendoline Riley has something of a cult following. She is technically innovative and very good at what she does, but the subject matter is invariably dark and downbeat which prevents mass market appeal. In that respect "Opposed Positions" is very much business as usual then. The subject matter most evident here is misogyny and the damaging impact it has both directly and indirectly on people. It's painful to read at times; it feels as if the narrator, an occasional novelist, Aislinn Kelly, is picking at the scab of her life and her family in a way that feels shocking and, for all the wry observations, remains uncomfortable to read.

We don't get a straightforward narrative here. Riley, through the voice of Aislinn, dives back and forward in time, recalling events in the past and always looking to identify the hidden motives of those around her. Although she evokes some sympathy, she is equally irritating and would, one feels, be hard work as a friend - not that she has many of those.

At first it seems that her father, who her mother left when his violence and drinking was too much for her, is the main reason for her insecurities, belittling Aislinn in her youth and then sending some nasty e-mails to her when she goes to university. It's creepy rather than overtly threatening though. Is this why her friends include the depressed Bronagh who works in a bookshop, and why her own choice of partners is so unsuitable?

Aislinn has to head to the US in order to escape enough to get the peace required to write her novels, although she is something of a reluctant novelist, and hates the process.

When her mother re-marries it seems that her choice of partner remains unfortunate. While Howard's approach is more mental than physical abuse, it suggests that there is something in her that also attracts these relationships. As Aislinn learns more about her maternal grandparents' relationship, perhaps there too is the source of the problems.

Almost all the relationships in the book are unsuitable or unhealthy, with each pair having opposed positions. It's pretty grim stuff. Aislinn's musical hero is Morrisey and the downbeat tone of that artist fits well with the style of the book. No one comes out with much, if any, happiness or fortune.

The dialogue feels very natural and her use of language is sharp and precise. There is no doubt that Riley has huge amounts of talent, but this isn't a book that will attract wide popularity. It's troubling and pretty bleak stuff. The result will be that readers are likely to have opposed positions in their views of the book, I fear.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a wasp in the room, 27 May 2012
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terence dooley (camelford, cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Opposed Positions (Hardcover)
In a recent interview Gwendoline Riley said that having another person about was like having a wasp in the room, and certainly her (autofictional?) heroine here is a dab hand with the swatter. Dead insects litter the floor of this novel, and yet Aislin is a vegan, and her body is probably a temple, with a cult of one. Actually she's quite funny in a merciless way about how ghastly and uncool everybody else is. The real objection, despite critical praise to the contrary, is that the book is so badly written: clunking dialogue, affectation galore, 'observational' decriptions, signs of lack of revision, but you have to feel sorry for the heroine, well someone has to.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book..., 20 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Opposed Positions (Kindle Edition)
It's one of those books which is just steady throughout.. following a character who just really doesn't have a straightforward life... for all those "flows" out there who are reading this as part of the book club (inspired by Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine... well done for buying it!)
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Opposed Positions
Opposed Positions by Gwendoline Riley (Hardcover - 17 May 2012)
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