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Anansi International

Don’t Look At Me Like That

Written by Diana Athill

Published March 10, 2020 | ISBN 9781487008451
FICTION / Literary

Cover of Don’t Look At Me Like That

Regular price $19.95 CAD

192 pages | 8 in × 5.25 in
Print Format

About this book

Don’t Look At Me Like That

Diana Athill

From the author of Somewhere Towards the End and Stet, the esteemed memoirist and editor Diana Athill’s only novel is an unflinching look at love and betrayal through the story of a young woman finding herself in 1950s London.

England, in the mid-1950s. Meg Bailey has always aspired to live a respectable life. With her best friend, Roxane, she moves from secondary school to a preppy art college in Oxford. Under the watchful eye of Roxane’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. Representing 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 startling now as when it was written, Don’t Look at Me Like That is an unflinching and candid book of love and betrayal that encapsulates Diana Athill’s gift of storytelling at its finest.


About the Author

Diana Athill

DIANA ATHILL (1917–2019) was a novelist, book editor, and memoirist. She 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 is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet. She was the author of seven other volumes of memoirs: Instead of a Letter; After a Funeral; Yesterday Morning; Make Believe; Somewhere Towards the End; Alive, Alive Oh!; and A Florence Diary. She also published two collections of short stories and a collection of letters. Her only novel, Don’t Look at Me Like That, was first published in 1967. Athill won the Costa Biography Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and she was appointed to the Order of the British Empire.

Awards and Praise


Don’t Look at Me Like That evokes a London of rain; grimy bedsits, plush, hushed restaurants, illicitness, and despair . . . Athill skilfully blends diffidence and pathos to produce a story at once all-too familiar and unique.” — Catherine Taylor, critic, writer, and former deputy director of English PEN

“A well-defined first novel sketching in people and places with a sure touch.” — Kirkus Reviews

“There’s a precision and excitement to [Diana Athill’s] writing that makes this timeless tale — that of an illicit affair — candid, sharp, and fresh.” — Montréal Centre-Ville Magazine


“What could be a casual tour of Italy describing its spoils is actually a meditation on female friendship, war, and the rebuilding of the self. It’s the ideal book for this moment in time, and she’s the ideal writer to show us what survival looks like.” — Lena Dunham

“The trip was brief, and so is the journal. But its vivid intensity and Athill’s joy at being young and alive and abroad make it perfect for travellers of any age.” — Daily Mail

“In A Florence Diary, a delectable time capsule, [Athill] brings alive the liberation, luck, and drama of those heady Italian days.” — New York Times Book Review


“An honest joy to read.” — Alice Munro

“She writes as a person of wide-ranging learning, a generalist, a lover of men and animals and a garden enthusiast, a person intoxicated with life.” — Erica Jong, New York Times Book Review

“Athill writes . . . with clarity, calm, and common sense.” — Boston Globe

“Reflections on old age, rather than on a long life lived are rare . . . It is rarer still for a woman to write such a book: so Athill’s candour and economic prose on religion, regrets, and sex are invigorating.” — Financial Times

“To readers Athill delivers far more than modest pleasure: Her easygoing prose and startling honesty are riveting, for whither she has gone many of us will go as well.” — Washington Post

“There is something terrifically comforting about a nonagenarian writing with clarity, wit, and verve about getting old and facing death . . . [Athill] evokes another grande dame of British letters in her uninhibited lifestyle and no-holds-barred, clarion voice: last year’s Nobel Prize winner, Doris Lessing.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“Bracingly frank . . . joyful rather than grim . . . she offers clear-eyed wisdom of the grandma-you-wish-you’d-had variety.” — People

“To paraphrase Shakespeare, wisdom is bred in neither the heart nor the head, but in the bones that carry us through the decades. A few very talented artists, like Diana Athill, may persuade their old bones to yield up a glimpse or two of what they’ve learned.” — Salon

“[Athill] is bluntly unconcerned with conventional wisdom . . . Firmly resolute that no afterlife awaits her, Athill finds just enough optimism in this world to keep her reflections from slipping into morbidity — she may not offer much comfort, but it’s a bracing read.” — Publishers Weekly

“One of England’s notable book editors examines life, old age, and approaching death with astonishing candor . . . distinguished by her spare, direct prose . . . Fiercely intelligent, discomfitingly honest, and never dull.” — Kirkus Reviews

“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 marvellous, feisty old character . . . What a treasure.” — Daily Mail

“[She has] a cold eye for reality and no time for sentimental lies.” — Sunday Times


“These stories reveal the same wry, mischievous, and essentially humane sensibility that will be familiar to readers of Athill’s memoirs.” — Times of London

“These stories are small gems . . . [Athill’s] legion of admirers will be pleased.” — Maclean’s

“[Diana Athill’s] collected fiction writing from the 1950s through the 1970s is a handsome garland on a long career.” — Vogue

“Athill writes . . . with clarity, calm, and common sense.” — Boston Globe

“Athill hopes [these stories] will give pleasure. They do; both in their own right and as a coda to a remarkable woman’s life.” — Evening Standard

“Feisty short stories . . . [A] terrific collection.” — Daily Mail


“Athill is wonderful — always aware of the need to entertain and beguile her reader . . . Fascinating and surprising.” — Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times