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Excerpt from Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Hot Milk

by Deborah Levy

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy X
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 224 pages

    May 2017, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Deborah Straw
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Print Excerpt

I asked him if he was referring to the economy. He said yes, he was studying for a master's degree at the School of Philosophy at Granada University but he considered himself lucky to have a summer job on the beach at the injury hut. If the Coffee House was still hiring when he graduated, he would head for London. He didn't know why he had said the dream was over because he didn't believe it. He had probably read it somewhere and it stuck with him. But it wasn't his own opinion, a phrase like 'the dream is over.' For a start, who is the dreamer? The only other public dream he could remember was from Martin Luther King's speech 'I had a dream . . .', but the phrase about the dream being over implied that something had started and had now ended. It was up to the dreamer to say it was over, no one else could say it on their behalf.

And then he spoke a whole sentence to me in Greek and seemed surprised when I told him that I do not speak Greek.

It is a constant embarrassment to have a surname like Papastergiadis and not speak the language of my father.

'My mother is English.'

'Yes,' he said in his perfect English. 'I have only been to Skiathos in Greece once but I managed to pick up a few phrases.'

It was as if he was mildly insulting me for not being Greek enough. My father left my mother when I was five and she is English and mostly speaks to me in English. What did it have to do with him? And anyway the jellyfish sting was what he was supposed to be concerned about.

'I have seen you in the plaza with your mother.'


'She has difficulty walking?'

'Sometimes Rose can walk, sometimes she can't.' 'Your mother's name is Rose?'


'You call her by her name?'


'You don't say Mama?'


The hum of the little fridge standing in the corner of the injury hut was like something dead and cold but with a pulse. I wondered if there were bottles of water inside it. Agua con gas, agua sin gas. I am always thinking of ways to make water more right than wrong for my mother. The student looked at his watch. 'The rule for anyone who has been stung is they have to stay here for five minutes. It's so I can check you don't have a heart attack or another reaction.'

He pointed again to 'Occupation' on the form, which I had left blank. It might have been the pain of the sting, but I found myself telling him about my pathetic miniature life. 'I don't so much have an occupation as a preoccupation, which is my mother, Rose.' He trailed his fingers down his shins while I spoke. '

We are here in Spain to visit the Gómez Clinic to find out what is actually wrong with her legs. Our first appointment is in three days' time.'

'Your mother has limb paralysis?'

'We don't know. It's a mystery. It's been going on for a while.'

He started to unwrap a lump of white bread covered in cling film.

I thought it might be part two of the jellyfish-sting cure but it turned out to be a peanut-butter sandwich, which he said was his favourite lunch. He took a small bite and his black, glossy beard moved around while he chewed. Apparently, he knows about the Gómez Clinic. It is highly thought of and he also knows the woman who has rented us the small, rectangular apartment on the beach. We chose it because it has no stairs. Everything is on one floor, the two bedrooms are next to each other, just off the kitchen, and it is near the main square and all the cafés and the local Spar. It is also next door to the diving school, Escuela de Buceo y Náutica, a white cube on two floors with windows in the shape of portholes. The reception area is being painted at the moment. Two Mexican men set to work every morning with giant tins of white paint. A howling, lean Alsatian dog is chained all day to an iron bar on the diving-school roof terrace. He belongs to Pablo who is the director of the diving school, but Pablo is on his computer all the time playing a game called Infinite Scuba. The crazed dog pulls at its chains and regularly tries to leap off the roof.

Excerpted from Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Copyright © 2016 by Deborah Levy. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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