I am incredibly indebted to Georgina Moore at Headline for an advanced reader copy of Sarah Duguid’s ‘Look At Me’ in return for an honest review. It is published by Tinder Press in hardback, audio and ebook on 25th February 2016. ‘Look At Me’ is available for pre-order here in the UK and here in the US.
Elizabeth’s mother is dead. Her father, Julian, has a daughter by another woman. When Lizzie decides to make contact with her half-sister Eunice, having found a letter from Eunice in Julian’s drawer, she is perhaps making the biggest mistake of her life.
From the moment I read the prologue to the final line that left me wondering if the book had actually ended as I wanted, as the characters needed or in a manner that was possibly unfair to them all, I loved ‘Look At Me’.
There is an iterative image of the theatre that runs through the book so intelligently. It is divided into the classical five acts, for example, and Lizzie is herself an actress, but so too are many of the others even without knowing it. The whole of life, and death, is exposed as an act or performance. The title ‘Look At Me’ can refer to so many moments and people that the book couldn’t be more fittingly named. The psychological need for attention, for others to ‘look at me’, is so deftly written that it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel.
Although hate is a strong word, I can honestly say I hated Eunice from the moment she was introduced. She is gloriously invidious and I wanted to step into the pages and slap her – hard. But Sarah Duguid has created the full range of tragic heroes. Every character is realistically flawed and every character is utterly believable. Indeed, Sarah Duguid’s writing is so compelling that the feelings of grief, of need and of longing thrum like electricity through the narrative. I found the prose hypnotic so that there is a creepiness that builds and builds until it is impossible to leave the book alone. I read it in one go.
A further delight is the author’s attention to detail. She is like a painter with words, skilfully creating the physical appearances of the people, the sounds, scents and sights of the surroundings. I could taste the gin on my tongue and smell pot in the air in the heat of the summer in this amazingly well crafted novel.
It’s hard to convey the quality of ‘Look At Me’. Essentially the plot is quite simple, but it is the depth of understanding of relationships that make it brilliant. Sarah Duguid’s writing is so good that I’m sure it will resonate with anyone who reads it. I can’t recommend ‘Look At Me’ highly enough.