Book of the Week

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Photo: PA Photo/Hamish Hamilton
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Photo: PA Photo/Hamish Hamilton

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy is published in hardback by Hamish Hamilton.

Every so often you read a book whose author has so acutely captured the human condition in all its anxiety fuelled, confused glory, it’s almost painful to read - like holding a mirror up to your own imperfect self.

Deborah Levy has done this and yet manages to elicit a sense of catharsis too - it’s OK, we’re all in the same leaky lifeboat.

Her narrator is 25-year-old half Greek, half Yorkshire anthropology student and barista Sofia Papastergiadis, whose father has a new baby with a much younger woman in Athens and mother, Rose, has a mysterious paralysis of the legs, among other ‘symptoms’.

Mother and daughter are in Spain, where Rose has spent a small fortune to be seen by a private doctor, Gomez. He gives Sofia permission to leave her mother’s side so she swims in the sea - and is stung by jellyfish, attracting the attentions of a lifeguard - and meets Ingrid, a Berlin seamstress, with whom she begins a tempestuous affair.

In just over 200 pages, Levy, who was Booker shortlisted for Swimming Home, deftly deals with the pull-push of mother-daughter bonds, identity, emerging sexuality, and the financial crisis.

All while expertly evoking all the physical - and emotional - sensations Sofia is experiencing. It’s enough to put you in a state of mindfulness.