Don't Look at Me Like That (Paperback)
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A candid novel of love, betrayal, and friendship about a young woman who breaks with her peers, moves to London, and begins a shocking affair.
“When I was at school I used to think that everyone disliked me, and it wasn’t far from true” confesses Meg Bailey at the start of Don’t Look at Me Like That. Coming of age in the mid-1940s, Meg finds herself to be out of place wherever she finds herself: She is a nonbeliever in her father’s parsonage, an artistic dreamer at her stuffy boarding school, a provincial in the worldly circles frequented by her best friend Roxane and Dick, Roxane’s future husband. It is only when Meg, newly graduated from art school, moves into an untidy London rooming house alive with the sounds of crying children, sparring lovers, and even foreigners, that she begins to feel at home. But ties to the past are not so easily severed, and Meg must disentangle herself from her troubled intimacy with Roxane and Dick before she can begin to start “living in her own way.”
Don’t Look at Me Like That is the only novel by the famed memoirist and editor Diana Athill, who died in 2019 at the age of one hundred and one. At once clear-eyed and compassionate, it is a story of making mistakes and making a life.
About the Author
Diana Athill (1917–2019) helped André Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill’s distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her memoir Stet. She is the author of seven further volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End, Alive, Alive Oh!, A Florence Diary, and a collection of letters, Instead of a Book. Her only novel, Don’t Look At Me Like That, was first published in 1967. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE.
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of eight novels, including White Is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award; Mr. Fox, which won a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; and What is Not Yours is Not Yours, which won a 2016 PEN Open Book award. Her most recent novels are Gingerbread and Peaces.
"Like Athill’s nonfiction, this too is an editor’s book, taut and briskly paced, precision-cut and ruthlessly economical…In Athill’s hands, economy never feels stingy: The effect is of luxurious distillation….This happy, if slightly astringent, dose of realism is what makes Athill’s lone novel something special, in our time, but hers as well." —Sadie Stein, The New York Times Book Review
“The novel serves as an intriguing exposition of the thin dividing line between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Even the bohemian life Meg lives apart from Dick, punctuated by a flourishing illustration career and a bevy of romantic suitors, is painted in ordinary strokes...In having Meg dispense with many of the fantasies and illusions that sustain ordinary life, Athill suggests that we don’t know why we do the things we do.” —Mathilde Hjertholm Nielsen, Full Stop
“Don't Look at Me Like That evokes a London of rain; grimy bedsits, plush, hushed restaurants, illicitness and despair. . . Athill skillfully blends diffidence and pathos to produce a story at once all-too familiar and unique.” —Catherine Taylor
“Athill is wonderful—always aware of the need to entertain and beguile her reader. . . Fascinating and surprising.” —Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times
“[The writing] shows [Athill's] editor's eye. . . This novel shows not so much that Athill should have written more fiction—we wouldn't want to be without those memoirs—but that she could.” —John Self, The Guardian
“Diana Athill’s writing is warm, straightforward, natural, enveloping. A blanketing comfort for a sore heart, a fuzzy head. . . . Athill’s skill as a writer of feelings is on full display. She is incisive without coming off as mean or angry, clear without being flat.” —Charles-Adam Foster-Simard, The Millions