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Don't Look At Me Like That

Don't Look At Me Like That

by Diana Athill, afterword by Helen Oyeyemi

Regular price $16.95
Regular price Sale price $16.95

September 2023 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club

“When I was at school I used to think that everyone disliked me, and it wasn’t far from true” confesses Meg Bailey at the start of Don’t Look at Me Like That. Coming of age in the mid-1940s, Meg finds herself to be out of place wherever she finds herself: She is a nonbeliever in her father’s parsonage, an artistic dreamer at her stuffy boarding school, a provincial in the worldly circles frequented by her best friend Roxane and Dick, Roxane’s future husband. It is only when Meg, newly graduated from art school, moves into an untidy London rooming house alive with the sounds of crying children, sparring lovers, and even foreigners, that she begins to feel at home. But ties to the past are not so easily severed, and Meg must disentangle herself from her troubled intimacy with Roxane and Dick before she can begin to start “living in her own way.”

Don’t Look at Me Like That is the only novel by the famed memoirist and editor Diana Athill, who died in 2019 at the age of one hundred and one. At once clear-eyed and compassionate, it is a story of making mistakes and making a life.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376110
Pages: 192
Publication Date:


Like Athill’s nonfiction, this too is an editor’s book, taut and briskly paced, precision-cut and ruthlessly economical…In Athill’s hands, economy never feels stingy: The effect is of luxurious distillation….This happy, if slightly astringent, dose of realism is what makes Athill’s lone novel something special, in our time, but hers as well.
—Sadie Stein, The New York Times Book Review

The novel serves as an intriguing exposition of the thin dividing line between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Even the bohemian life Meg lives apart from Dick, punctuated by a flourishing illustration career and a bevy of romantic suitors, is painted in ordinary strokes...In having Meg dispense with many of the fantasies and illusions that sustain ordinary life, Athill suggests that we don’t know why we do the things we do.
—Mathilde Hjertholm Nielsen, Full Stop

Read this book in your teens and twenties and think: ‘Oh God, that’s me.’ Read it later and think: ‘Thank God that’s over.’
—Laura Freeman, The Times (London)

Don't Look at Me Like That evokes a London of rain; grimy bedsits, plush, hushed restaurants, illicitness and despair. . . Athill skillfully blends diffidence and pathos to produce a story at once all-too familiar and unique.
—Catherine Taylor

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

[The writing] shows [Athill's] editor's eye. . . This novel shows not so much that Athill should have written more fiction—we wouldn't want to be without those memoirs—but that she could.
—John Self, The Guardian

Diana Athill’s writing is warm, straightforward, natural, enveloping. A blanketing comfort for a sore heart, a fuzzy head. . . . Athill’s skill as a writer of feelings is on full display. She is incisive without coming off as mean or angry, clear without being flat.
—Charles-Adam Foster-Simard, The Millions

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