Jennifer Egan is no stranger to book awards or press, especially with her latest Pulitzer Prize win in Fiction for A Visit From the Goon Squad earlier this year. Look At Me, is yet another of her award-winning books, a literary fiction novel that garnered critical acclaim and earned Egan a National Book Award nomination in 2001. Naturally, I had high expectations.
Look At Me begins with the story of super model Charlotte Swenson. Swenson endures a car accident, that renders her unrecognizable, but luckily, still beautiful. Upon her return to New York she’s forced to deal with reintegration into a society where youth and beauty are paramount. The book goes to great lengths to examine identity and Egan emphasizes this point by weaving in other character perspectives, which include the daughter of Charlotte’s childhood friend, a private detective, and a strange new teacher, to contribute to the novel’s greater goal. The narratives change back and forth as each character deals with different veils of identity and the search for how identity is defined, both within ourselves and within society.
Not surprisingly, the novel is expertly written and Egan’s prose is flawless. I felt some of the elements surrounding the mysterious characters came to an inevitable crossroads and the first person perspective of Charlotte felt in contrast, sometimes too much so, to the third person narratives of the other characters. All in all the book is a layered and intriguing read and is more than deserving of its positive press.
Reviewed by: Kim
Title: Look At Me
Author: Jennifer Egan
Read: July 2011
Source: Powell’s Books