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Review: Hot Milk – Deborah Levy


It was the cover that drew me in; it often is when it comes to books. I was on a 3 week trip back to London, and under strict self-imposed instructions not to buy any books. Having travelled with hand luggage only, I already had three to take back to Bali and suffice it to say the last thing I wanted was to be landed with a fine for going over my luggage limit. And yet, to paraphrase the famous Oscar Wilde – I can resist anything except temptation itself – and while browsing the shelves of Hampstead’s Waterstones, I caved.

I was looking for a heady summer read, reminiscent of The Lemon Grove – one of my go-to summer books, and the beachy blues of Hot Milk’s front cover won me over straight away. I’d also previously read – and really enjoyed – Levy’s Swimming Home and so, like that, I was sold.

Set in a fishing village in southern Spain, the books opens with a shattered laptop, dropped by narrator Sofia, who laments that if her laptop is broken, then so is she. A half-English, half-Greek anthropology student who works in a London cafe, Sofia’s mother has remortgaged her UK flat in order to visit a clinic run by Spaniard Gómez in the hope that he can cure the long standing paralysis that confines Rose to a wheelchair and Sofia to a life spent caring for her mother. The tale looks at the ways in which her life is put on hold as she caters to every petulant demand of her mother’s and we witness the sacrifices and sympathy pains that Sofia undergoes in order to take care of Rose and her imagined illness.

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Rich in prose and poignancy, Hot Milk looks in detail at relationships and identity, and is a wonderfully vivid and evocative read that will subtly charm its reader from start to finish.

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