Reviews of Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

Hot Milk

by Deborah Levy

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy X
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2017, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Deborah Straw
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About this Book

Book Summary

A richly mythic, colour-saturated tale which explores the violently primal bond between mother and daughter.

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.

2015. Almería. Southern Spain. August.

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.

So what I am saying is that if it is broken, so am I.

My screen saver is an image of a purple night sky crowded with stars, and constellations and the Milky Way, which takes its name from the classical Latin lactea. My mother told me years ago that I must write Milky Way like this – galaxi´aV ku´kloV – and that Aristotle gazed up at the milky circle in Chalcidice, thirty-four miles east of modern-day Thessaloniki, where my father was born. The oldest star is about 13 billion years old but the stars on my screen saver are two years old and were made in China. All this universe is now ...

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Reviews

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An exploration of sexuality, female rage, mother-daughter relationships, and, ultimately, finding one's own life...continued

Full Review (746 words).

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(Reviewed by Deborah Straw).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Gorgeous . . . What makes the book so good is Ms. Levy’s great imagination, the poetry of her language, her way of finding the wonder in the everyday, of saying a lot with a little, of moving gracefully among pathos, danger and humor and of providing a character as interesting and surprising as Sofia. It’s a pleasure to be inside Sofia’s insightful, questioning mind.

The Washington Post
Levy’s language is precise. The absurdities of her style seem scattershot at first, but yield a larger pattern: a commentary on debt and personal responsibility, family ties and independence.

Marie Claire
Hot Milk is a complicated, gorgeous work.

The Guardian (UK)
A powerful novel of the interior life, which Levy creates with a vividness that recalls Virginia Woolf . . . Transfixing.

The Independent (UK)
Exquisite prose... Hot Milk is perfectly crafted, a dream-narrative so mesmerising that reading it is to be under a spell. Reaching the end is like finding a piece of glass on the beach, shaped into a sphere by the sea, that can be held up and looked into like a glass-eye and kept, in secret, to be looked at again and again.

The Independent (UK)
A beguiling tale of myths and identity ... provocative ... The difficult, ambivalent, precious mother-daughter relationship forms the core of this beautiful, clever novel.

The Literary Review (UK)
Acutely relevant ... A triumph of technically adroit storytelling. Levy's elegant and poised prose has the rare quality of being simultaneously expansive and succinct ... A breath of fresh air.

The New Statesman (UK)
Great lush writing [and] luxuriation in place. No writer infuses the landscape, urban or rural, with as much meaning and monstrosity as Levy ... Unmissable.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. In her scintillating, provocative new book, Levy combines intellect and empathy to impressively modern effect.

Publishers Weekly
Starred and Boxed Review. A singular read ... Levy has crafted a great character in Sofia, and witnessing a pivotal moment in her life is a pleasure.

Booklist
It is an anthropologist's attention to the details in people's interactions, and a daughter's complicated efforts to free herself from her mother's needs, that make Hot Milk an evocative and complex novel.

Library Journal
The claustrophobic, all-encompassing dysfunction of Sofia's self-involved circle of friends and family is wrapped in the oppressive heat of Spain and the narrowing possibilities that she can (or wants to) break free. The Man Booker short-listed Levy . . . draws in readers with beautiful language and unexpected moments of humor and shock.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Jellyfish

Box JellyfishIn Deborah Levy's Hot Milk the main character, Sofia, spends time on the beach in Spain and is stung by jellyfish. The jellyfish, eerily beautiful yet often painful to humans, is one of a few creatures benefitting from global warming. Its numbers, which remained stable for a period, are now rising in many areas of the world.

Jellyfish have been around for over 500 million years. As they are not technically fish, many in the scientific community refer to othem as jellies and the two terms are used interchangeably. They vary greatly in size, most being less than half an inch wide to around 16 inches wide. They consist of 95% water. The jellyfish does not have blood or any solid skeletal structure; its body is divided into three main parts...

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