When you’re life is falling apart its easy to covet what other people have. The unnamed narrator of Laura Sim’s Looker is slowly losing control of her carefully constructed world. Multiple IVF treatments have failed and its taken its toll on her marriage. Her husband has left her, reconciliation seems unlikely, and he wants his cat back. Alone in the flat they once shared she has to face the empty room that was supposed to be a nursery, and the reality that she doesn’t fit into her neighbourhood in the way that she would like to.
The breakdown of her marriage is the catalyst that sparks her increasing obsession with an famous actress who lives on her street. She has always been aware of the actress, her loving husband, and her pretty daughters. At times she has tried to emulate the actress’ natural confidence and stylish clothing. She imagines what it would be like to be close to her, to be her, to have her all to herself. She watches the actress in her beautiful house surrounded by her perfect family and wonders why she is the one that gets to have it all.
I’ve always said I like strong women in fiction, but I think it’s more complex than that. I like real women. I like ugly, flawed women who challenge stereotypical perceptions of what a woman is, stories that show women who have been damaged by these expectations. One of the reasons I love Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing is that she’s not afraid to let her characters be ugly, and I think that’s what I was drawn to in Laura Sim’s Looker. This is a woman who is in denial, who is desperate and does desperate things. She is irrational and obsessional. She is potentially dangerous. She hates her husband’s cat until he wants it back, and then is suddenly consumed with affection for it. She is at times wonderfully petty. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that there is a deeper issue here and her sense of reality is beginning to slip. She has no support network and by the end of the book she has nothing to lose.
Although I felt a little conflicted by the ending, this was an interesting exploration of obsession, denial and what can happen when your grip on reality starts to slip.