Opposed Positions

by Gwendoline Riley

  • UK & Comm Jonathan Cape (May 2012)

At thirty, Aislinn Kelly is an occasional novelist with a near-morbid attunement to the motives of those around her. Isolated, restless and stuck, she decamps to America – a default recourse – this time to an attic room in Indianapolis, to attempt once again the definitive act of self-salvage.

There are sharp memories to contend with as the summer heats up, and not least regarding her family history, now revealed as so botched and pitiful it seems it might yet cancel her out. She’s been bullied and belittled by her long-vanished father through a stream of emails, and now her mother is helplessly glorying in a second rancid marriage. There are also friendships lost or ailing: with bibulous playwright Karl, sly poet Erwin, depressed bookshop-wallah Bronagh, and Aislinn's best friend Kathy, who has recently found God... Finally her thoughts turn to her last encounter with Jim Schmidt, a man she’s loved for ten years, hasn’t seen for five, yet still has to consider her opposite number in life.

Opposed Positions is a startlingly honest novel about the human predicament, about love and its substitutes, disgraceful or otherwise. Some of these people want to be free – of themselves, of each other – and some have darker imperatives. Wry, shocking, perfectly observed and utterly heart-breaking, the novel moves towards its troubling conclusion: a painful appreciation of what it is we’ve come from, and what we might be heading for.
Opposed Positions
'Opposed Positions is... an enjoyable book... Aislinn Kelly is cool. She is smart, and accurate, she can write a dynamite sentence that manages to sound entirely bland. She has an eye for the flip and the sarcastic, she observes, maintains distance, doesn't put out. She brings nothing to the party, except herself, but she's the girl you remember, over in the corner, not drinking much.'

Anne Enright The Guardian

"Riley keeps her sentences smart, affectless and most wonderfully flat."

Anne Enright The Guardian

"Riley is careful not to forsake craft in favour of voice...the novel is digressive without being idle, slender without being slight."

Leo Robson The Sunday Times

"Riley's work is both intricate and expansive. Her prose is a continual joy to read, and the detail immensely satisfying: she can squeeze more resonance out of a misplaced apostrophe than others can from baroque, technicolour trauma."

Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday

"Riley's fourth novel offers a portrait of relentless bile so instinctive, wholly inescapable and immediate it brings the reader out in a cold sweat..if next year's Orange judging panel doesn't take notice of Riley, it will have missed a trick."

Elsbeth Lindner Book Oxygen

Opposed Positions took her four years to complete – it was, she says, by far and away the most difficult book she's written, partly because much of it was based loosely on personal experience.

Guardian