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Hot Milk Kindle Edition
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|Length: 220 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Sofia and her mother, Rose, arrive on the Spanish coast seeking help. Rose is the victim of a biological conspiracy: her legs have stopped working and no one can tell her why. Both women are desperate for the truth - but awaiting them in Almeria are many more questions than answers.
Almeria is a place caught between the desert and the deep blue sea. It is a place of shifting mirages and ghostly jellyfish floating in the evening tide, watched over by the famous Dr Gomez and his glamorous assistant, Nurse Sunshine. Simmering with hope and longing, Sofia has come seeking solutions, but the answers she finds are always to questions she had not thought to ask.
Under the unblinking glare of the desert sun, mother and daughter strain at the ragged boundaries of their relationship, testing the bonds of kinship to breaking point. Intoxicating and compulsively readable, Hot Milk unspools a hypnotic tale of female rage and sexuality, of myths and timeless monsters.
'Astute, poetic and wise, Hot Milk confirms Deborah Levy's reputation as a master of the contemporary psychological novel' Darian Leader
A HAMISH HAMILTON BOOK--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
Leaves the reader enraptured and unnerved (Jackie Annesley, Evening Standard) --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- File Size : 2894 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 220 pages
- Publisher : Penguin (24 March 2016)
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- ASIN : B0163NVPDS
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: 105,273 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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In the hot dry landscape of Almeria life unfolds in a weird sort of dreamscape. You get the impression that everything Sofia describes is real, but it comes across as surreal. She is stung by Medusa jellyfish. She has an affair with a tall blonde German girl and also with the male student in charge of the sting treatment hut at the beach. Gomez, seeing how Rose’s dominion has sucked the selfhood from Sofia, advises Sofia to steal a fish from the market to practise bravery. A lot of his advice is like that. He tells the cat-hating Rose to draw cats on the soles of her shoes so she can stamp on them. The impression is that Gomez knows perfectly well that Rose’s ailments are psychological.
On impulse, Sofia decides to visit her father in Athens. At 69, he is married to a 29 yo, and they have a baby daughter. He’s got religion in a big way, and is wealthy, not that he’s willing to share it with his older daughter. His young wife is an economist firmly committed to Greece taking its financial medicine. “Why would he do anything to his disadvantage? she asks Sofia of her father. Like all the other references in the book, this sentiment becomes part of Sofia’s thought train, and this is what’s so brilliant about the writing. Ideas and images are noted and collected into a cornucopia of thoughts and feelings describing and informing that tricky thing - life. Back in Spain, Rose, deprived by Gomez of her many beloved medications, gets them all back from another doctor, but there’s a shock in store for her, and her bluff is called. It’s a novel with a great double-edged sword for an ending. Highly recommended.
Twenty-five year old Sofia is the carer of her sixty-four-year-old, hypochondriac mother, Rose, who's lost the ability to walk. She rules over Sofia and pushes her around. Sofia is an intelligent young woman, who's abandoned her anthropology PhD, devoting herself to looking after her mother. She works in a cafe and sleeps in a room above the shop for five nights and lives with her mother the rest of the time. She's got nothing to her name. She's clueless, extremely passive and trapped.
The trip to the South of Spain to a very expensive private clinic run by Dr Gomez is the last resort for Sofia's mum. While there, Sofia has opportunities to explore her sexuality and discover things about herself. She also pays a visit to her Greek father and his new family. They haven't had any contact in over eleven years.
Sofia is fascinated with memory. She's an observer with an anthropologist's observational skills. She's not particularly skilled at applying those skills to herself, which is not unusual, most of us tend to look outwards more than inwards.
The time in Spain, the people and relationships that develop there bring on revelations and prompt Sofia to seek escape and change. Will she manage to pull herself out of this emotional entrapment?
Levy did a terrific job describing the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship and other types of connections. This is not for everyone, but it sure was right up my alley.
Top reviews from other countries
"I am overflowing like coffee leaking from a paper cup. I wonder, shall I make myself smaller? Do I have enough space on Earth to make myself less?"
I have read Deborah Levy before, but this is by far my favourite of hers. In the past, I felt her playwright bent would sometimes dictate how she told a story as if she was visualizing it in a staging sort of way. In this novel, the characters have rich and complicated internal lives. The way she writes them had traces of Jeanette Winterson in her earlier works, the always thinking and feeling characters where the plot is secondary. And I mean that as a compliment, since Winterson remains in my top three authors and likely always will. So the style, the narrative, shall we say, really worked for me. The reader is left faced with either filling in the gaps or discovering that "what happens" isn't the point so much as the transformative journey of the inner lives.
"I am pulsating with shifting sexualities.
I am sex on tanned legs in suede platform sandals.
I am urban and educated and currently godless."
Other elements that made me enjoy this novel are the character having a background of anthropology (female anthropologists being a notable trend in several of my favourite reads.) There is something about the approach of anthropology, how it notices, how it attempts to gain an inside perspective, that makes it really work in internal dialogue.
"If anthropology is the study of humankind from its beginning millions of years ago to this day, I am not very good at studying myself. I have researched aboriginal culture, Mayan hieroglyphics and the corporate culture of a Japanese car manufacturer, and I have written essays on the internal logic of various other societies, but I haven't a clue about my own logic. Suddenly that was the best thing that ever happened to me."
I should also mention the impact of the limited landscape of an unpleasant Spanish coastal town (where jellyfish fill the water and factories and concrete line the shore) and the element of an adult child dealing with the real or imagined illness of a parent. She captures the strangeness of a mother who demands attention, even from her child.
"Her symptoms do all the talking for her. They chatter all the time."
"I told her the beach was desolate and that I had been staring for two hours of a pile of gas canisters. It was my special skill to make my day smaller so as to make her day bigger."
It starts well and gets better. Then it loses focus and ends badly. There is a shock at the very end which ties it together somewhat but for the reader, it is too late. There are also surreal elements in the story as I read it. Were they meant to be surreal, though, or was it misguided writing? There is sex, written with discretion. There is violence that is well-described; again, this may have deeper meaning.
It is written in the first person. The narrator is a woman in her twenties. She is totally believable. The main character, though, is her mother, who is not at all believable. Mother and daughter are in Spain for a reason, which, if not bizarre, certainly stretches credulity. The young woman’s sexual partners add depth to the story and the consultant is a minor triumph. The episode in Athens where Sofia meets her father and his family is telling, especially when he give her a gift.
The heat, the detritus, the noise, of the Spanish coast is brilliantly done.
Would I recommend the book to, say, my wife? No, or only with a lot of reservations. To my feminist daughter? Yes, with fewer reservations.
To the general reader? With respect, probably not.
Later today I shall listen to it being discussed on BBC World Book Club, with the author.