‘If I Can’t Have You’ is a story about obsession. This may immediately allude to Patricia Highsmith, but the stalker in this book is a female.
The main protagonist of the novel, Constance Little, started a new job as a receptionist in a private doctors’ surgery. She is immediately infatuated with a doctor who works there, Samuel. After a brief affair with the said individual, she just can’t let go. She stalks him and even obtains the key to his apartment, where she comes when he isn’t there.
Constance Little is the type of woman that attracts admirers. There is a long list of her previous and current housemates that fell for her. She is also a pretty considerate person, which makes her likeable. She lost her mother and is grieving her. Furthermore, she takes care of an older and ill person.
Constance Little is an outsider. She is new to London and similarly, as Charlotte Levin comes from Manchester, lost her mother and came to London for a brief stint. Constance Little also shares the initials with the author. This outsider feeling is even apparent in the prologue, where Constance Little walks on the platform in the wedding dress and with a broken tooth. She attracts no attention.
Samuel is also an interesting character. He is a private GP with a real passion for his work. When Constance Little has an injury at work, he shows her genuine attention, but only a professional one. He is a typical commitment-phobe who engages only in casual relationships with women. Constance Little is not the one to change this state like in ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being,’ but she is the one to get him under. We can really feel how nasty Samuel is when the other woman gets pregnant with him and Samuel, stalked by Constance Little, encourages this woman to form a relationship with someone else. There is another similar scene in the book when Samuel ditches Constance Little for his friends.
Although classified as psychological suspense, the novel, in many ways, resemblances a black comedy. The descriptions are witty and insightful. We immediately feel for Constance Little. The second person narrative, addressed to Samuel, makes the narration very intimate and immediate.
The ending is the biggest twist in the novel, and we are delighted to see that Constance Little got away with everything she did and may lead an everyday life.