Hot Milk

Joanna Walsh on Hot Milk

Levy’s book is a surrealist landscape, a painting by Dali. It creeps up on the reader as a seemingly realist narrative of a mother and daughter who travel to Spain to seek a cure for themselves, for each other. But its so much more. Draped over this 'reality' is a psychological drama that brings the novel's characters, its settings, into the realm of expressionism, symbolism, myth, via the unclassifiable, hypnotic oddness of Levy's prose.

Deborah Levy, Hot Milk

Two women arrive in a Spanish village - a dreamlike place caught between the desert and the ocean - seeking medical advice and salvation. One of the strangers suffers from a mysterious illness: spontaneous paralysis confines her to a wheelchair, her legs unusable. The other, her daughter Sofia, has spent years playing the reluctant detective in this mystery, struggling to understand her mother's illness.

Surrounded by the oppressive desert heat and the mesmerising figures who move through it, Sofia waits while her mother undergoes the strange programme of treatments invented by Dr Gomez. Searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, ever more entangled in the seductive, mercurial games of those around her, Sofia finally comes to confront and reconcile the disparate fragments of her identity.

Hot Milk is a labyrinth of violent desires, primal impulses, and surreally persuasive internal logic. Examining female rage and sexuality, Deborah Levy's dazzling new novel explores the strange and monstrous nature of motherhood, testing the bonds of parent and child to breaking point.

About the author

Deborah Levy is a British playwright, novelist and poet. She is the author of five previous novels, Beautiful Mutants (1986); Swallowing Geography (1993); The Unloved (1994); Billy & Girl (1996), and Swimming Home (2011), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize 2012 as well as the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize. Deborah is also the author of a collection of short stories, Black Vodka (2013), which was shortlisted for the BBC International Short Story Award and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. She has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC. Hot Milk is her sixth novel.

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