Originally published: 9 July 2020 (Paperback 4 February 2021)
Author: Charlotte Levin
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Length: 397 pages
Listening Dates: 15-18 February 2021
Samuel, the day we met I knew I’d finally found what I’ve been waiting for.
Happiness, at last.
Then you left me.
And now I am alone.
Everyone I love leaves in the end.
But not this time.
I’m not giving up on us.
I’m not giving up on you.
When you love someone, you never let them go.
That’s why for me,
this is just beginning.
If I Can’t Have You is told from the point of view of Constance, a doctors receptionist in her late 20s. Isolated in London after moving from Manchester after her mother’s death, she doesn’t have any friends and barely tolerates the company of her co-workers. When new doctor Samuel Stevens begins at the surgery, Constance instantly finds him attractive.
After a couple of weeks of flirtation, they end up sleeping together and Constance is smitten. When Samuel inevitably gives her the brush off, Constance becomes obsessed. They have sex on several other occasions (in an alley by a pub, on his desk at the surgery), and Samuel treats her terribly. Constance believes herself to be in love and fully expects that Samuel will soon realise that he feels the same way about her. She manages to get a key to his flat and visits whenever he isn’t there taking little mementoes. She follows him on his nights out. She befriends an old man in the building opposite Samuel’s so she can spy on him.
A cracking thriller, this is guaranteed to make you absolutely furious. Samuel is just vile – he sees nothing wrong in his behaviour, the way he treats Constance and the other women he sleeps with, believing them to be crazy because they are hurt and angry at the way he treats them, made me so cross!
Constance is at times an unsympathetic character but she has been through a lot. Her dad left when she was a young child but she has never given up hope of seeing him again and her mum never recovered from him leaving and much of Constance’s childhood was spent watching her mum drink herself into oblivion. Having only recently lost her mum to cancer, she isn’t in the best mental state to handle Samuel’s rejection. But she genuinely comes to care for the old man who lives opposite Samuel and I loved their friendship and how they come to care for each other.
With themes of abuse and gaslighting, this was an utterly gripping read which made me feel so angry but I loved it. An absolutely cracking debut, it is a clever and thought provoking novel.
Thank you to Tandem Collective for inviting me on the Instagram readalong and Pan Macmillan for a copy of the book, some sweets and the absolutely brilliant mug in the picture.
About the author:
Charlotte Levin has been shortlisted for the Andrea Badenoch Award, part of the New Writers North Awards, and for the Mslexia Short Story Competition. Charlotte lives in Manchester and If I Can’t Have You is her first novel.