Cold Water by Gwendoline Riley
|Cold Water by Gwendoline Riley|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: George Terry|
|Summary: Cold Water is the wonderfully self-assured debut from Gwendoline Riley. It bears all the hallmarks of Riley's work; vague characters that wash almost unnoticed over the loose narrative, a young heroine with modest yet compelling struggles and Manchester; the city within which most of Riley's work is staged.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2003|
Carmel McKisco works in what she describes as a dive bar in the American style, frequented by a small collective of regulars, each eager to impart their wisdom to the young bar-girl. Between amusing the down-and-outs in her workplace she moves unnoticed through her city, going to gigs with her workmate Margi and taking night-time strolls around the streets. McKisco's aspirations are modest yet seemingly unattainable, she dreams of moving to Cornwall, but never seems to get further than Macclesfield, and she is shadowed by the memory of an ex, Tony, who seems to crop up here and there reluctant to let himself fade into the annuls.
If this is your first time reading Gwendoline Riley then be aware that you are not the first person after having read a few chapters of her work to think, there's not really much happening is there? Cold Water, even for Riley, is a very discreet piece of work, in which often the smallest details are of the greatest importance. Although at first I found this made the book a little hard to get into eventually I found myself really engaging with the characters, and due to the everyday nature of what is occurring in the novel I found myself really empathising with the protagonist.
Throughout the novel Riley exhibits a wry kind of humour, often quite dark at times she sums up her characters through scathing emotional insights from Carmel, some people carry their emotional life around like a dead rat in a box she says at one point, a typical example of Riley's dry wit.
When I chose to review Cold Water I thought at first I would have a huge amount to talk about, but it simply isn't the sort of book you can easily sum up. Were I to sum up the plot for you it could be done in less than one sentence, though this would miss the crux of the novel, which is in fact the tone of what is written, and not the action itself. I realise that for a lot of people this may be a deterrent, on the face of it the novel could be quite dull, quite drab, but for anyone that has enjoyed the work of better known writers like A L Kennedy this novel, I am sure, will be well received.
Cold Water was chosen to be one of the five outstanding British debuts of 2002, and although at first I found it a little hard to engage with I soon found myself caught up in the seemingly trivial yet inexplicably captivating struggles of the protagonist. It is a short piece of work that could be read from cover to cover in less than a day, yet despite its brevity I found it to be an extremely entertaining and fulfilling read.
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