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Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

July 19, 2018

 

Penguin

Paperback 2017, £8.99

 

Jellyfish float through Deborah Levy’s hypnotic prose in her Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, Hot Milk. Their dream-like, seductive motif places the text on the very edge of fiction and reality, whilst also acting as reminders of the duality of the human condition (both beautiful and dangerous), a theme which is explored at length in this masterfully surreal composition. Sofia and mother, Rose, travel to Almeria to obtain answers from the famed Dr Gomez concerning the inexplicable deterioration of Rose’s legs. Just like the jellyfish which wade through the text, it gradually becomes clear that the relationship between mother and daughter holds some poison which must be drawn out. This is a novel which explores characters who feel they have lost their place in the world: namely Sofia, who abandoned her PhD in Anthropology to accompany her mother, and who searches for meaning in people who, despite their beautiful charms, contain a dangerous sting just like the Medusa jellyfish which haunt her dreams. Levy’s stark, poetic style is extraordinary in its ability to both connect and distance the reader from these characters, who we come to realise are beyond our help. This is a tantalising novel about female relationships, feeling detached from the world and the search for answers which might, ultimately, be futile.

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