Hot Milk by Deborah Levy


Reading Hot Milk is like waking up dazed and dehydrated from a slightly-too long siesta. Disorientating and bewildering, it is dreamlike.

Rose and Sophia are a mother and daughter who have come to Spain, in search of a last-chance cure for Rose’s paralysis in her legs. Sophia is an anthropology graduate/barista, bowed and burdened through care of her mother. The novel explores the mother-daughter relationship and Sophia’s search for identity. It’s a modern myth, or even poetic anthropological study of desire, identity, and familial bonds.

Everything is imbued with enough heavy poetic symbolism to make your head whirl. It makes for beautiful, emotive and powerful reading. Sophia swims amongst and is stung by Medusas, as jellyfish are locally known. She frees a chained, barking dog. She flies to Athens to find her estranged Greek father.

Its dreamlike quality is a double edged sword- there is never the satisfaction of finality or conclusiveness. These swirling images are very abstract, reluctant to form a convincing narrative. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but perhaps this is the way we’re meant to interpret Sophia’s search- unfinished, Sisyphean, fragmented.

Read: In the quiet of the midday sun with no distractions.

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