Joshua Spassky (2 stars)

Gwendoline Riley

Joshua Spassky (Jonathan Cape)


Young Mancunian writer Gwendoline Riley is much-praised in literary circles, but it’s hard to see why from this turgid sliver of immature existential angst. A young female novelist from Manchester (hmmm) and an older American playwright hook up in smalltown America to see if there’s anything to their relationship besides the odd drunken fling they’ve had in the past. Cue lots of excruciatingly unrealistic dialogue in which the thoroughly unlikeable and painfully self-conscious pair talk past each other and generally do an unhealthy amount of navel-gazing.

And, well, that’s about it. Nothing actually happens in Joshua Spassky, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except Riley provides little else in the way of character, description or prose to keep the reader from falling asleep. Ultimately, it’s just impossible to have any empathy with such a duet of self-centred and narcissistic central characters, making Joshua Spassky, even at a measly 164 pages, a real struggle.

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