Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Published by Hamish Hamilton
Published 31 March 2016
NB: I’ve decided to read all of the books long-listed for the Man Booker this year. Other book blogs do this so it seems like a good idea.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor. It was tucked under my arm and slid out of its black rubber sheath, landing screen-side down. The digital page shattered. Apparently there’s a man in the next flyblown town who mends computers. He could send off for a new screen, which would take a month to arrive. Will I still be here in a month?
My mother is sleeping under a mosquito net in the next room. Soon she will wake up and shout, ‘Sofia, get me a glass of water’, and I will get her water and it will be the wrong sort of water. And then after a while I will leave her and return to gaze at the shattered starfield of my screen.
Two women arrive in a Spanish village – a dreamlike place caught between the desert and the ocean – seeking medical advice and salvation. One of the strangers suffers from a mysterious illness: spontaneous paralysis confines her to a wheelchair, her legs unusable. The other, her daughter Sofia, has spent years playing the reluctant detective in this mystery, struggling to understand her mother’s illness.
Surrounded by the oppressive desert heat and the mesmerising figures who move through it, Sofia waits while her mother undergoes the strange programme of treatments invented by Dr Gomez. Searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, ever more entangled in the seductive, mercurial games of those around her, Sofia finally comes to confront and reconcile the disparate fragments of her identity.
Hot Milk is a labyrinth of violent desires, primal impulses, and surreally persuasive internal logic. In this dazzling new novel, Deborah Levy explores the rhythms of female rage and sexuality and the ways in which children and parents are both debtors and creditors.
Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach. It was tucked under my arm and slid out of its black rubber sheath (designed like an envelope), landing screen side down. The digital page is now shattered but at least it still works. My laptop has all my life in it and knows more about me than anyone else.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I loved Hot Milk. This is the first time I’ve read any Levy books and I can’t wait to devour more. Hot Milk is my third favourite from the Booker longlist, coming after His Bloody Project and Do Not Say We Have Nothing. It’s been ages since I enjoyed a book as much as Hot Milk. I even cried a little at the end. This fantastic novel explores the complex, difficult and touching relationship between Sofia and her hypochondriac mother, Rose. The characters are brilliant and wonderfully complex, just the way I like my fictional characters. Sofia is fascinating. She’s a bit of an odd fish and at times I thought she was much younger than she was. Rose is also very complex. She reminds me a lot of my aunt who has suffered mysterious ailments with no medical explanation for years. I loved the way the characters develop over the course of Hot Milk. Rose gets control over her strange illness and Sofia becomes a whole person instead of just her mother’s carer. I really loved Hot Milk and totally recommend it.