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Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
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Hot Milk (2016)

by Deborah Levy

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4121936,562 (3.47)76
  1. 00
    Purity by Jonathan Franzen (sianpr)
    sianpr: Another story in which mother/ daughter relationships are central
  2. 00
    Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (sianpr)
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English (18)  Dutch (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I described this book to my husband as "everything people don't like about literary fiction in 218 pages." It felt self-consciously artsy to me, all style and no substance, with ultimately little to say. This is the second time I've felt this way about Levy's work; apparently the Booker judges see something in her that I simply don't. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
"The epigraph to this novel is by Hélène Cixous from “The Laugh of the Medusa”: “It is up to you to break the old circuits.” Likewise, Sofia at one point concludes: “Anthropologists have to veer off track, otherwise we would never rearrange our old belief systems.” Family and lovers, like myths, have a force of power that is beyond people’s comprehension. For Sofia, the story has to be remade. It’s too easy to be the maiden to her mother’s crone. But as Sofia knows, her love for her mother “is like an axe”. Breaking the circuits will break some parts of her, as well."

Reviewed it in full here. ( )
  subabat | Mar 19, 2018 |
In Deborah Levy’s novel Hot Milk, 25-year-old Sofia Papastergiadis has accompanied her mother, Rose, to a town on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, in search of a cure for the chronic and crippling paralysis that has afflicted Rose for some years. Sofia, with a half finished degree in anthropology, works as a barista and, as she freely admits, has no life of her own: her desires and ambitions having been for years swallowed up by Rose’s endless needs, demands and expectations, which are in turn driven by a mysterious ailment that has confounded the doctors they’ve consulted at home in England. At the Gómez Clinic, Rose endures examinations and various treatments while Sofia is cut loose for once to do as she likes. She goes to the beach to swim, is stung by a jellyfish, and is treated at the injury tent by Juan, whom she takes as a lover. She befriends Ingrid Bauer, a German living in Spain (who endearingly calls her “Zoffie”), and the two form a close physical, if not exactly trusting, bond. All the while she speculates about her mother’s tyrannical hold over her and her own willingness to submit to it, and wonders about her non-existent relationship with her Greek father. Just past the midpoint of the novel, she flies to Athens to visit her father—who (at 69) is living with his new wife Alexandra, who is 29, and their newborn, Sofia’s half-sister Evangeline. By Sofia’s reckoning her father is a wealthy man (he runs a shipping company), yet the apartment is modest and for her stay of several days she is offered a folding bed in a storage closet with no windows. Sofia leaves Athens—a city suffering the effects of Eurozone austerity measures—with no more insight into her father than she had when she arrived. Sofia is something of an emotional vagabond and someone who accepts the things that happen to her and only rarely makes any kind of effort to assert herself. Her sole act of defiance in the novel comes when she smashes a vase, an impulsive and symbolic act that occurs when her resentment of her mother’s manipulative exploitation boils over, but also makes plain (given her lack of resources) her powerlessness to do anything about it. In Hot Milk, Deborah Levy has written an emotionally powerful, penetrating, often perplexing and unapologetically enigmatic novel centring on the interior life of a young woman stymied by circumstance. It is written in prose that achieves the paradoxical by being sensually vivid and hallucinatory at the same time. In these pages, Sofia Papastergiadis discovers a number of uncomfortable truths about herself and her mother, and we leave her wondering if these discoveries will be enough to finally propel her to make the necessary changes to her life. ( )
  icolford | Sep 21, 2017 |
Poor stuff. Set in Andalucia. British girl with disabled mother seek treatment from Spanish-American doctor. His dog is called Jodo, which means "I fuck". No translation or comment on this; perhaps significant later in the story, but I stopped reading when the Spanish speakers start uttering Italian. We get "pulpo" and "polpo" on same page. Ignorant or careless? At least in good company: D H Lawrence did the same in his Mexican travel book. ( )
  vguy | Sep 17, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this odd book for the writing, the portrayal of relationships and feelings, and the sensual detail. To review it properly I think I'd need to reread it - there's a lot going on beneath the surface. ( )
  bobbieharv | Sep 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
The reader becomes as unsettled as Sofia through Levy's provocative, seemingly haphazard mixing up of tenses, occasional blurring of points of view; grammar necessarily shatters when Rose and Sofia gaze newly at each other, try to break old patterns of misunderstanding, to speak truthfully. The difficult, ambivalent, precious mother-daughter relationship forms the core of this beautiful, clever novel.
 
Hot Milk is a powerful novel of the interior life, which Levy creates with a vividness that recalls Virginia Woolf. The sense of Sofia’s life with her mother (or against her mother) is built through an accumulation of detail, a constellation of symbols and narrative bursts. But like a medusa, this novel has a transfixing gaze and a terrible sting that burns long after the final page is turned.
 
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Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
amazon ca :"I have been sleuthing my mother's symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?"

Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother's unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant--their very last chance--in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia's mother's illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia's role as detective--tracking her mother's symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain--deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

"Hot Milk" is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.
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"I have been sleuthing my mother's symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim? Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother's unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant--their very last chance--in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis. But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia's mother's illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sophia's role as detective--tracking her mother's symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain--deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community. Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world"--… (more)

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