SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016
SHORTLISTED FOR THE GOLDSMITHS PRIZE 2016
Plunge into this hypnotic tale of female sexuality and power - from the Man Booker shortlisted author of Swimming Home and The Man Who Saw Everything
'Propulsive, uncanny, dreamlike. A feverish coming-of-age novel' Daily Telegraph
'A triumph of storytelling' Literary Review
'Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach. My laptop has all my life in it and knows more about me than anyone else. So what I am saying is that if it is broken, so am I . . .'
'Perfectly crafted. So mesmerising that reading it is to be under a spell' Independent on Sunday
'Hot Milk treads a sweaty, sun-drenched path into the history books. A properly great novel' Romola Garai
'Hot Milk is an extraordinary novel, beautifully rich, vividly atmospheric and psychologically complex... Every man and woman should read it' Bernardine Evaristo
'The contemporary writer I admire most' Linda Grant
'Hypnotic... This novel has a transfixing gaze and a terrible sting that burns long after the final page is turned' Observer
'Gorgeous. What makes the book so good is Levy's great imagination, the poetry of her language, her way of finding the wonder in the everyday. It's a pleasure' New York Times
'Terrific, sizzling with heat and sexuality . . . You devour it in one sitting' Radio Times
'Unmissable' New Statesman
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
There’s no shortage of stories about aimless, compromised women nowadays, but Hot Milk feels special. It’s the story of 25-year-old Sofia Papastergiadis, who's travelled from London to a sunbaked Spanish town to accompany her hypochondriac mother to a high-end medical clinic. Sofia is intelligent—she’s abandoned her PhD in anthropology to be a caregiver—but she’s also passive and confused, yielding to the whims of an intense German seamstress and whirling in doubt and suspicion. Deborah Levy’s novel—a finalist for 2016’s Man Booker Prize—is creepy and irresistible.
"Is Donald Duck a child or hormonal teenager or an immature adult? Or is he all of those things at the same time, like I probably am?" These questions come from the memorable heroine of Booker-finalist Levy's (Swimming Home) novel: 25-year-old Sofia, who instead of pursuing her anthropology Ph.D. works in a coffee shop in London and spends much of her time caring for her sick and complaining mother, Rose. The two have traveled to arid Almer a on Spain's southern coast to visit the renowned but unorthodox Dr. Gomez, a fitting choice, since Rose's ailment is baffling to everyone, including Sofia. While in Almer a, Sofia experiences an awakening: she meets the alluring Ingrid, gets stung by jellyfish, and becomes bolder in the face of her mother's oppressiveness. There is light mystery in the beautiful locale involving some potentially dangerous characters, and the story might be best described as The Magus as written by Lorrie Moore. But it's Sofia's frantic, vulnerable voice that makes this novel a singular read. Her offbeat and constantly surprising perspective treats the reader to writing such as "we dressed as though there weren't a dead snake in the room" and "unfinished hotels... had been hacked into the mountains like a murder." Levy has crafted a great character in Sofia, and witnessing a pivotal point in her life is a pleasure.
English playwright (25 of them if you count radio plays), novelist (8 so far plus 3 books of short stories), and poet (one published collection). Mucho awards and award nominations. Hot Milk was short listed form the Booker in 2016. I didn't read it then, but it was referenced in a couple of articles I've read recently (don't ask me where) so I thought I'd give it a go.
Mid-twenties English girl with a Greek name (her old man is Greek) has put her training in anthropology on hold to care for her 67-year-old Mum, who is afflicted by a mystery illness that sounds functional to me (she can't feel her legs or walk, except when she wants to). No one in the NHS can help, so they take a second mortgage on the family home and travel to southern Spain hoping for a miracle cure from an orthopaedic surgeon who thinks he's a shrink and runs a clinic from a dome shaped building that resembles a breast. What could possibly go wrong? It's at the beach and it's hot but the sea is filled with jellyfish (called medusae In Spain, and for allegorical reasons no doubt) while the shoreline is dominated by gas cylinders and industrial activity. Our gal's basically a loser, who Gomez encourages to venture forth and do stuff while he works to fix her Mum. That stuff includes getting stung by jellyfish a lot despite the warning signs on the beach, hooking up with a chick, hooking up with a guy, then going to Greece to reunite with her old man she last saw 11 years ago. The end.
A brief narrative starts out relatively straight then acquires a dream-like quality in Spain that continues to the end. Ms Levy is clearly a talented, erudite writer, and a master of metaphor and simile, of which she delivers a shedload. As someone whose only skill with metaphors lies in torturing them, I was jealous, although I found much of the dialogue unconvincing, overburdened as it was with figures of speech. (She had so many, she had to put them somewhere, I suppose.) Themes included psychosomatic illness and unconventional healers, destructive codependent relationships, and something else I couldn't quite put my finger on.
Impressive tradecraft salvages a less than convincing plot.