Look At Me by Sarah Duguid
Release Date: 25th February 2016
Publisher: Tinder Press
Buy: Hardback Kindle
Lizzy lives with her father, Julian, and her brother, Ig, in North London. Two years ago her mother died, leaving a family bereft by her absence and a house still filled with her things: for Margaret was lively, beautiful, fun, loving; she kept the family together. So Lizzy thinks. Then, one day, Lizzy finds a letter from a stranger to her father, and discovers he has another child. Lizzy invites her into their world in an act of outraged defiance. Almost immediately, she realises her mistake.
Look at Me is a deft exploration of family, grief, and the delicate balance between moving forward and not quite being able to leave someone behind. It is an acute portrayal of how familial upheaval can cause misunderstanding and madness, damaging those you love most.
Lizzy Knight and her family are still struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother. Two years have passed and their North London home is still exactly as it was before Margaret’s death. Her room is untouched, her clothes hang in the wardrobe – and that’s the way Lizzy and her family want things to stay.
However, when aspiring actress Lizzy discovers that she has a half sister who shares her father, she makes a rash decision and makes contact with the girl, Eunice. Lizzy’s father, Julian, knows of Eunice’s existence and despite the fact that she was conceived whilst Julian was married to Margaret, Lizzy is still determined to meet this mysterious addition to their family. Eunice is thrilled to be welcomed into the fold by Lizzy but she soon starts to make herself a little too much at home.
Eunice is a force to be reckoned with and it’s not long before she firmly gets her feet under the table – literally – when she ends up moving in to the family home. Lizzy quickly grows to hate her interfering ways and when Eunice forces Lizzy to take a good look at her seemingly idyllic childhood, it soon becomes apparent that everything was not as glorious as it once seemed. It’s not long before Lizzy starts to regret the day she ever tracked down her half sister…
Look At Me was one of those books that I had been desperate to read ever since I first learnt of its existence. I don’t think anyone could read the synopsis and not be intrigued and I was fascinated to see how this quirky and unpredictable story would play out.
I was well and truly engrossed in the story from the very first page. We are taken straight into the heart of the story as Lizzy discovers a letter from Eunice to Julian. As soon as she learns of Eunice’s existence and challengers her father about it, there will be no turning back from a readers perspective as you join the family on their journey, full of twists and turns, lies and truths.
The family dynamics were extremely powerful and I was simply fascinated by the Knight family. The relationship’s that they each had- seemingly so open and relaxed with one another, but really hiding a multitude of secrets. You really feel a sense of unease over the whole family and the more that is revealed about life when Margaret was alive, the more compelling the story seems to become.
Lizzy made for a wonderful narrator, although it soon becomes obvious that she is not revealing everything. I didn’t know if I could entirely trust her and this played on my mind throughout the novel. Then there was the way that she behaved towards Eunice; making the initial contact and inviting her into her home and yet once she established a relationship with Eunice her behaviour towards her completely changed. Whilst Lizzy is not the most likeable of characters she certainly is intriguing. It’s clear that she is still hurting over the death of her mother and as you learn more about Margaret, you also come to understand Lizzie’s behaviour a little better. I found her absolutely fascinating and her unpredictability was one of my favourite things about the novel.
Talking of unpredictable characters I felt that most of the characters in the story had a little something mysterious about them. Eunice was another one that I didn’t know whether to trust or not, yet once again she completely fascinated me. At times I was certain that she was up to something, and then other times I felt as though she just wanted a family of her own who would love her unconditionally. I wasn’t sure about Julian, either. Sometimes I just wanted to get a straight answer out of him and find out what was going on one way or another. Whilst they are not the most likeable of characters, they certainly are an electic and wonderfully crafted bunch.
This is an absolutely stunning debut and Sarah Duguid is definitely an author to watch. I always remember when I read Harriet Lane’s awesome debut, Alys, Always and had so many feelings about the book…I felt very much similar with Look At Me and it reminded me of Harriet’s book in a lot of ways. Not necessarily the storyline but the feelings that the characters evoked and just that feeling of being slightly blown away by the whole thing.
Sarah’s writing is assured, strong and unique. She brings her characters to life so well whilst demonstrating the complexities of family relationships and living with loss. I also love the format in which she has chosen to present Look At Me. The story is split into different ‘acts’ which ties in so well with Lizzy being an aspiring actress. There’s even a short quote at the start of each ‘act’, continuing the draw the reader in and giving us a subtle hint of what’s to come.
Quirky and unsettling, this is going to be a massive debut of 2016.
A huge thank you to Georgina Moore at Tinder Press for sending me a review copy of Look At Me. ♥
Sarah Duguid grew up on a farm in North Lincolnshire and was educated in Derbyshire and at Durham University where she read English Literature. After university, she lived and worked in New York and South Africa before returning to London where she now lives with her partner and their son. She is currently working on a Masters in English at UCL as well as her second novel.
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