Don’t Look At Me Like That
England, in the mid-fifties. Meg Bailey has always aspired to live a respectable life. With her best friend, Roxane, she moves from secondary school to an un-bohemian art college in Oxford. Under the watchful eye of Roxanne’s mother, Mrs Wheeler, the two girls flourish in Oxfordian society. But Meg constantly longs for more. Not content to stay in Oxford, she finds a job in London. Roxane stays behind and marries Dick, a man of Mrs Wheeler’s choosing.
As Meg’s independence grows, Dick suddenly appears in London for work. A connection to her past, Meg and Dick’s friendship flourishes, blurring the lines of loyalty between what is and what was in a way that changes life for these three friends forever.
As sharp and starling now as when it was written, this unflinching and candid book of love and betrayal encapsulates Diana Athill’s gift of storytelling at its finest.
"Diana Athill wrote one collection of short stories (An Unavoidable Delay - 1962) and this, although the brushwork is light, is a well defined first novel sketching in people and places with a sure touch. Along with a sense of life-as-it-is. Particularly for Meg Bailey, who leaves a drab country Church of England parsonage, a prim father, a plaintive mother, to go off to school. There through her closest friend Roxane, a soft and sociable sort, and Roxane's mother, a philistine, worldly woman, Meg moves away and up to London, art school, and a Job as an illustrator. While Roxane marries Dick, one of her mother's decorative young men, and Meg falls in love with him. This is then primarily the story of their affair which goes on and on for several years, even after its uncomfortable exposure (to her parents, via Roxane's mother) until Dick leaves for America, through the weeks of purposeless and numbing wretchedness to follow... While Miss Athill is not as sharp a writer as say Edna O'Brien (the problem perhaps--you identify all this without identifying) she appeals to the same audience which has had very little of this kind to read lately--a woman's novel with a flickering, sympathetic intelligence."--Kirkus Reviews, on Don't Look at Me Like That, Nov. 1967 Praise for Somewhere Towards the End, Winner of the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, a New York Times bestseller and the Winner of the Costa Award for Biography "An honest joy to read" - Alice Munro "Her brilliant book is entirely lacking in the usual regrets, nostalgia and recollections of old-timers. It is a little literary gem, penned by a marvelous, feisty old character ... What a treasure" - Daily Mail "[She has] a cold eye for reality and no time for sentimental lies" - Jenny Diski, Sunday Times
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