Two years ago, her mother died, leaving a family bereft by her absence and 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.
Look At Me by Sarah Duguid will be published by Tinder Press on 25 February 2016, and is the author's debut novel.
Lizzie, her father Julian and her brother Ig live together in a house in North London. Lizzie and Ig are adults who didn't fly the nest. Their nest is the house that their mother Margaret made into their sanctuary during their childhood, into adulthood and then she died. Margaret lives on in their memories and their routines and in her belongings that are scattered around the house, left in the places that she put them. Lizzie feels that to disturb Margaret's belongings would disturb their memories.
They have always been an unconventional family. Julian and Margaret led a bohemian lifestyle of travel and drugs, flared trousers and sheepskin jackets, swirling colours of crushed velvet and sparkling costume jewellery. Lizzie and Ig have continued this theme; Lizzie is a struggling actress whilst Ig is an alternative therapist and surrounds himself with joss sticks and meditative music.
Although two years have passed since Margaret's death, the family still mourn. They feel incomplete without her presence and their comfort is in their house, surrounded by memories of her. When Lizzie discovers that Julian has another daughter; Eunice, who is younger than her, she feels angry and betrayed. She is indignant with rage and invites Eunice to their house.
Eunice is a whirlwind. She's inquisitive, determined and interfering. She quickly immerses herself into this family that she has been desperate to be a part of. The impact that Eunice has is massive, the small family unit find themselves exposed and fractured by this small girl with the huge personality.
Look At Me is beautifully constructed, the prose is sparse and revealing. Sarah Duguid's characters are flawed and keenly observed. This story is a glimpse into a family that have barely papered over the cracks caused by grief, and is then fully exposed by secrets that cannot remain hidden.
Lizzie's voice is strong, she is impetuous, remorseful and determined that her family will continue to mourn Margaret, yet she is also passionate and spontaneous when she becomes involved with man who remains nameless. Julian is unrepentant, a nonconformist who refuses to acknowledge that his actions have hurt and will continue to hurt those closest to him. And Eunice; the unsettling, yet lovable young woman who rocks the boat so hard, and makes waves that will change things forever.
Look At Me is polished, precise and sensitive. Sarah Duguid is a very skilled and capable author, this is a short novel that packs a very heavy punch. I enjoyed it very much.
My thanks to Georgina at Tinder Press who sent my copy for review.
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.
More information can be found on her website www.sarahduguid.com
Follow her on Twitter @sduguid26