Friday, 17 January 2014

Fiction Review: 'Look At Me' by Jennifer Egan

In honour of my new resolution to toss anything that doesnt grab me in the first 10% or so, heres another DNF. Now Im sure this is a deeply worthy affair, covering the themes of identity, how others see us and how we see ourselves. Its well-written and all that. But it lacked something. Plot, mainly. Interesting characters, definitely. Any kind of impetus to keep turning the pages, or to find out what happens to these people. I just didnt care.

It started so well, too. This is the opening:

After the accident, I became less visible. I dont mean in the obvious sense that I went to fewer parties and retreated from general view. Or not just that. I mean that after the accident, I became more difficult to see.

Now, thats intriguing. How did she become more difficult to see? Or rather, why? I felt a frisson of interest. Was there, perhaps, some paranormal stuff going on? Fairly stupid response, right? In my defence, I have a lot of stuff lurking on my Kindle from way back, not sorted by genre, and I dont check the blurb or reviews first, I just start reading. This had unintended consequences in this particular case. Since its written in the first person, I had no idea whether the main character was a man or a woman. I ran with the default male. It was many, many pages before there was mention of a prom dress. Oops. Time for a quick adjustment of mental image. It was many more pages before there was a name, Charlotte. Dull name.

Anyway, its not paranormal, its just angsty chick-lit. After this interesting opening, we go back to the main characters childhood, would you believe, and slog through the details of her best friend and her first boyfriends and discovering sex and all that stuff. It takes forever to come back to the present day. By then Id lost interest. There was absolutely nothing about the main character to hold my attention or make me want to read on. For anyone whos more tolerant of this kind of introspective story, I can tell you that its very well written and its had good reviews. It just wasnt for me. One star for a DNF.


  1. It's interesting that the professional reviews in literary publications of this book are positive, while most of her readers on Amazon agree with you. Trad publishers have a weakness for 'literary' fiction which is not shared by the majority of their customers.

    1. Yes, the Goodreads reviews are fairly mixed as well.