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Hot Milk Hardcover – July 12, 2016
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“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 New York Times
“Levy has spun a web of violent beauty and poetical ennui . . . the book exerts a seductive, arcane power, rather like a deck of tarot cards, every page seething with lavish, cryptic innuendo.” - The New York Times Book Review
“In Levy’s evocative novel, dense with symbolism, a woman struggles against her hypochondriacal mother to achieve her own identity.” - The New York Times Book Review, “100 Notable Books of 2016”
“Against fertile seaside backdrops, Sofia, seeking a robust, global meaning for femininity and motherhood, becomes increasingly bold herself.” - The New Yorker
“Hot Milk is a complicated, gorgeous work.” - Marie Claire
“A powerful novel of the interior life, which Levy creates with a vividness that recalls Virginia Woolf . . . Transfixing.” - Erica Wagner, The Guardian
“The novel's eerie atmosphere and sibylline turns of phrase have made Hot Milk the bettor's favorite for this year's Man Booker Prize . . . Its moody spell and haunted imagery pull you in.” - Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“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.” - Suzanne Joinson, The Independent
“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.” - Washington Post
“Highbrow/Brilliant. [An] intensely interior but highly charged new novel about family, hypochondria, Spain, Greece, and all kinds of sex.” - New York Magazine, Approval Matrix
“Economical, fluid, evocative of sex and mythology . . . . Young Sofia . . . drop[s] beautiful bombs of truth.” - New York Magazine’s Vulture blog
“A singular read . . . Levy has crafted a great character in Sofia, and witnessing a pivotal moment in her life is a pleasure.” - starred and boxed review, Publishers Weekly
“Scintillating, provocative . . . Levy combines intellect and empathy to impressively modern effect.” - starred review, Kirkus Reviews
“Kinship, gender, Medusas--this rich new novel from a highly regarded British writer dazzles and teases with its many connections while exposing the double-edged sword of mother-daughter love.” - Kirkus Reviews, “Best 2016 Fiction for Armchair Travel”
“Great lush writing [and] luxuriation in place. No writer infuses the landscape, urban or rural, with as much meaning and monstrosity as Levy . . . Unmissable.” - Eimear McBride, The New Statesman
“A beguiling tale of myths and identity . . . provocative . . . The difficult, ambivalent, precious mother-daughter relationship forms the core of this beautiful, clever novel.” - Michele Roberts, The Independent
“Among the questions posed in this heady new novel: Is Sofia’s mother, Rose, sick or a hypochondriac who’s feverish for attention? And more important, can the frustrated Sofia break the chains of familial devotion and live for herself?” - O, the Oprah Magazine
“Deborah Levy’s intoxicating and beautifully crafted novel, a worthy finalist for the Man Booker Prize, digs deep in its exploration of female sexuality, strained family bonds and hypochondria.” - Minneapolis Star Tribune, “50 Best Books for Holiday Giving”
“The author of the elusive, powerful novel Swimming Home has another tale of family dysfunction. In the unforgiving heat of southern Spain, wayward anthropologist Sofia Papastergiadis delivers her mother into the hands of an eccentric doctor whom they hope can diagnose the mysterious illness that has taken over her body.” - Elle.com, “11 of the Best Books to Read in July”
“A fascinating book about sexuality, anger, medicine, and the drive to stay alive, Hot Milk is a unique novel that reads like a lucid dream.” - Bustle, "12 Travel Books That Will Transport You This Summer”
"An unsettling, poetic novel." - The Atlantic, “The Best Books We Read in 2016”
“Mesmerizing . . . evocative and complex.” - Booklist
“A terrific tale of mothers and daughters and fathers and daughters and confusion and old age, sickness, woe . . . and finding love tucked away in strange places.” - R.A.L.P.H. Magazine
“Dazzling and, at times, deeply disturbing, Hot Milk is a mystery meets introspective coming-of-age novel. It's unnerving--and that's a good thing.” - Refinery 29, “20 Books Perfect For Your Summer Vacay”
“The Man Booker short-listed Levy . . . draws in readers with beautiful language and unexpected moments of humor and shock.” - Library Journal
“A captivating demonstration of why Levy is one of the few necessary novelists writing in Britain today. This is the poetry and playfulness of her prose . . . More important, Levy grapples with and presents the complex psychology and multiple facets of her female characters like few others, which makes the recent reappraisal of her life’s work all the more welcome.” - The Forward
“Levy's reputation as a singularly talented writer is on display throughout this novel, and this is most obvious at the basic level of the sentence. Her prose is lean and taut, poetic and rich with symbolism; each sentence shaped with care with nary a redundant word.” - PopMatters
“Hot Milk is a purposeful work of how someone might find sustenance.” - Daily Kos
“A fraught, intense bond between mother and daughter is poetically rendered in Hot Milk, Deborah Levy’s follow-up to the 2012 Man Booker short-listed Swimming Home.” - San Diego Magazine, “5 Books to Read in July”
“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 Literary Review
“A superbly crafted novel that is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, Hot Milk clearly reveals author Deborah Levy as an exceptionally gifted storyteller.” - Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, widely broadcast on the BBC, and translated into fourteen languages. The author of highly praised novels including Swimming Home (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl, the story collection Black Vodka, and the essay Things I Don't Want to Know, she lives in London.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's not that this gut-punch of a little book is unclassifiable, there's just a lot to it, and Deborah Levy is astoundingly good at moving all the pieces around in a way that is completely enrapturing and unusual. The prose is hypnotic—evocative and wry. I found myself reading passages twice just for the pleasure of taking them in again. And I noticed that sometimes as I was reading Hot Milk, I was stepping outside myself and thinking about how happy I was that I was reading it—not merely because it's extremely well executed, but because it's also so strange while being so well executed. Basically, I'm going to be doing a lot of recommending of this to people.
I suppose what the experience of reading Hot Milk might be most like is its title: it might make you squirm, but you're left with a vivid picture.
Sofia is a young anthropology student who has spent her life taking care of her mother, Rose, who suffers from a mysterious and unexplainable illness that's arguably psychosomatic. The two of them move to a hot coastal community in Spain where Rose can attend a local clinic run by a peculiar doctor who may be her last hope.
Throughout her life Sofia has struggled to forge an identity for herself, inextricably linked to her mother in an unhealthy bond, to the point where Sofia even begins to mirror some of Rose's symptoms. But while her mother is under the care of this new doctor, Sofia has the opportunity to detach and become her own person.
What follows is a complex, provocative, unusual story about desire, sexuality and identity, as Sofia toes the fine line between independence and familial responsibility. Hot Milk is a dysfunctional family novel unlike any other. The prose is at once taut and mesmerizing, wry and powerful -- the kind that demands to be savored. This was my first time reading Deborah Levy, and it certainly won't be my last.
Levy's writing is dazzling. Her sentences are beautifully constructed and they are a combination of intelligence, wit, and depth. In my opinion, Levy has created a narrative that feels easily accessible and unpretentious -- unlike so much literary fiction that can seem pretentious. On a surface level it is an easy read but it is so filled with symbolism that I would have thought it would appeal both to those looking for an entertaining read and those looking for a complex and deeper read.
Some reviewers have complained that the plot goes nowhere or just fizzles out. I guess if you go into it thinking that it's a mystery or thriller where you will receive the answer to the mystery of why Sophia's mother is the way she is in a direct "here's the diagnosis" way, you will be disappointed. Levy has more faith in her readers to pull together the pieces of the puzzle and make their own interpretations. In reality, the questions raised are all answered, you just have to look beneath the surface of the main plot line. However, I agree that this is more novel of ideas and themes than it is about a concrete plot although I personally found the plot interesting.
Hot Milk is about identity, self-discovery, and separating ourselves from the things in our lives that hold us down and prevent us from self-actualization. It you like books that are beautifully written and full of profound themes and related symbolism, you will enjoy this book. It's certainly now what I would categorize as chick-lit although the themes are topics may be of more appeal to women than men. Here are a few quotes to give you a flavor of the book:
"I confess that I am often lost in all the dimensions of time, that the past sometimes feels nearer than the present and I often fear the future has already happened"
"my father suffered a religious conversion but as far as I know he has not got over it."
"Except her teeth were blindingly white and mostly made from porcelain. They were perfect. I don't know why perfect is weird, but it is. I sometimes wonder about porcelain veneers. What if they fall off to expose the teeth beneath them that have been filed to a pointy stump, like monster's teeth.
"'you have such a blatant stare," she said, 'but I have watched you as closely as you have watched me. It's what mothers do. We watch our children. We know our gaze is powerful so we pretend not to look.'