Sunday, 20 May 2012

Book #46 Look At Me by Jennifer Egan

Look At Me

Look At Me is the story of Charlotte Swenson, a model whose face is damaged so badly in a car crash, that following reconstructive surgery she becomes unrecognisable to those who knew her. It is also the story of Charlotte Hauser, Charlotte Swenson's teenage namesake, the daughter of her estranged best friend, and the narrative switches between the two protagonists.

The prose is often well written and has some great identifiable moments throughout such as :

"When she thought of herself a year ago she remembered a girl with outsized hopes, a girl who believed the world had made secret arrangements in her favour. Charlotte hated her"
 The premise too is a really good one, life beyond disfigurement, an interesting story to be told. Unfortunately this really isn't that story. Though this is the novels central plot, the story of the younger Charlotte has naught to do with this idea. Furthermore it is the younger Charlotte who is the more intriguing and likeable character. Older Charlotte the model is an irritating arrogant character to be in the company of, and the opportunity for psychological reflections on the nature of disfigurement does not take place, so much so that I do wonder if Egan even bothered to consult people who had experienced like tragedies.

In some ways it felt like two separate novels merged, a novel on loss of beauty, and a novel on loss of innocence; as though perhaps originally there had been only one Charlotte and Egan did not know whether to focus on her youth or her adulthood. The storyline involving the mysterious Z who solidifies a link between the two feels completely preposterous and tenuous due to excessive coincidence. 

As a character himself Z is less an enigma than a thin sketch, abrupt and confusing, his lack of detail as a character is incredibly frustrating.

It goes on in one strand to make a point about the modern development of Individuals who are not famous for their work but are commodities of themselves, brands, like for example Snooki or the Kardashians. Personally I'm getting incredibly bored of novels which shoehorn in some annoying parody of the real world in order to make some kind of redundant pseudo-intellectual contemporary social comment. It's been overdone.

The ultimate problem was that I found that the longer I read this novel, the more I failed to care about it or its characters, so much so that as I approached the end I was page counting. When you end up page counting you know you hate the book.....

Not for me. 5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment