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If I Can't Have You Hardcover
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Top reviews from the United States
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The prose is tight and tense. The characters are impulsive, vulnerable, and troubled. And the plot told through retrospective first-person narration is a slow-burning, creepy yet heartbreaking tale of life, loss, love, desperation, deception, jealousy, manipulation, anger, hatred, obsession, and emotional volatility.
Overall, If I Can’t Have You is a gripping, nuanced, fantastic debut by Levin that does a remarkable job of reminding us that love is not just lightness and joy but also sometimes extremely dark and dangerous.
Constance is a receptionist at a doctors surgery where she meets and falls in love with Samuel, the new doctor. They have a whirlwind romance and Constance thinks she has found the one. Until one day, Samuel puts an end to it and says “they have had their fun but it is time to move on” Constance can’t believe this and she will stop at nothing to get Samuel back.
The story is narrated by Constance and the author does such an amazing job with her characterization. You feel her vulnerability and passion towards others. At first while reading, I really didn’t like her character but by the end I loved it. I felt for her so much when Samuel would use her, only when it was on his terms and convenient for him. I also adored her relationship with Edward, and elderly man she starts to help out.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves stories about infatuation and raw human emotion and will definitely be on the look out for this authors next novel!
Thank you so much Netgalley, Pan Macmillan and Charlotte Levin for the opportunity to read this ARC.
Top reviews from other countries
The lead character carries you along with her reckless decisions and wry observations of others (and herself) so you feel you know her. It can make for uncomfortable reading but also sometimes humorous and very human.
As a Northerner who also moved south, aspects resonated-the alienation and self consciousness. It's very refreshing to read something far removed from the whimsical strolls through wealthy, middle class London.
I liked that I was kept guessing right until the end and couldn't put it down. It's not for the faint hearted but I defy anyone who has had their heart broken not to sympathise.
Reviews aren't something which I normally do, but I felt that this book deserved my efforts.
From the opening few pages, this story had me completely gripped. I won't give anything away plot-wise, other reviewers have already provided enough detail.
Constance, the main protagonist is a troubled individual - but I found myself rooting for her throughout the story.
Her pretty bleak life (past and present) is described in achingly raw detail, but also with a hint of dark mirth.
None of the surrounding characters are particularly likeable (oh, all except Edward), and the way in which Constance describes these individuals is done with a humorous disdain, which I found myself grinning knowingly along to.
The conclusion to the story has a sad inevitability to it, but there were a few moments near the end when I genuinely found myself holding my breath.
I was unable to put this book down during my holiday, and once I had finished it I couldn't start my other holiday reads due to this one still playing on my mind.
Charlotte Levin's writing style is fresh and one which I really enjoyed, and I am looking forward to the inevitable next one.
Charlotte Levin writes in the form of a narrative by Constance who attends ad hoc psychology sessions with Dr Franco at the practice. At his suggestion, she explains her compulsive attachment and its consequences by writing a letter to Samuel; reliving the pain and chaotic events which include her equally infatuated but unsavoury flat mate Dale who she reluctantly allows into her crumbling life, creating an exquisitely destructive love triangle. We see an unlikely friendship develop with Edward, an eccentric elderly gentleman who is searching for a different kind of love to replace his own loss in life. Constance is like a magnet for broken souls.
Charlotte effortlessly draws us into Constance Little’s world from the first page. Her prose is so evocative that it is easy to envisage the medical practice with its irritating admin colleagues, her dismal bedsit, Samuel’s plush but faceless apartment and Edwards eclectic, grimy but convivial home. It’s all there in our heads, we smell the rain as she gets drenched on the streets of west London, feel the crunch of the icy snow as she steps out of work and we inhale her cigarette smoke as she walks away. But we walk alongside her and want to help but feel powerless and as we witness the complexities of her mind unfold.
Despite the turmoil that Constance goes through, Charlotte provides light and shade with dry observational humour which presents Constance as more intelligent and self-aware than those who surround her and her many moments of clarity are palpable which makes her lack of control all the more tragic.
My hand instinctively held the next page, not wanting to miss a beat. Just like when I eat an Oreo and my hand is already delving into the packet for the next one, so we all have our obsessions. This is what is so clever about this novel, it invites you to look at yourself and question what you would do in the same circumstances given Constance’s history. I would hope most of us wouldn’t go as far as she does but would we think about it anyway? Would we dare to dream? Are we all capable of creating such disarray, failing to recognise that we need support before we destroy relationships, friendships, ourselves?
It is a constant push pull and don’t expect a comfortable read about counting calories and making blue soup because you won’t find that here. It’s very gritty and graphic at times, just like real life. This novel would be perfect for a screen adaptation and the soundtrack would be superb as Charlotte threads a classy selection of song titles throughout the book.
This story stays with you and if you pick it up another time, I have no doubt you will find something different to contemplate by the end. I look forward to that.
Its a highly readable, interestingly written, entertaining and twisty tale of love and hate which I thoroughly recommend