This Book is a part of Man Booker 2016 Shortlist Read Series
“Hot Milk” by Deborah Levy is her second novel to make it to the Shortlist of Man Booker Prize. “Swimming Home” was her debut at the Man Booker back in 2012. Similar to that book, Deborah Levy sticks to her strengths. Set in the backdrop of a family drama, “Hot Milk” deals with the life of a young anthropology doctorate dropout who is torn between her aspirations and family.
Book #: 37
Title: “Hot Milk” by Deborah Levy
Having finished reading Ottessa Moshfegh’s “Eileen” only the previous week, I could not help but draw comparisons between Eileen and Sofia – both of them bound by their own shackles, trying to live in the realism of their own, only to be liberated by a catalyst – Rebecca and Ingrid respectively. But, the challenges and emotions of Sofia dig way too deeper than Eileen and so is the line of narration.
Earlier this year, Jaume Collet- Serra’s survival thriller movie “The Shallows” tracked the life of Nancy Adams (played by Blake Lively) as she struggles to survive the attack of a great white shark. Nancy Adams is probably the closest visual representation that could imagine for Sofia’s character. The comparison might not only end with her love for her mother – one seeks redemption and the other retribution, but there are Medusa jellyfishes in either case.
In “Hot Milk”, Deborah Levy tries really hard to subtle down the underlying abstractness but couldn’t resist herself from making it explicit, at least in the dialogue. The book takes off with Sofia quoting “this laptop has all my life” when it shatters on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach in Almeria, Southern Spain. Even though the constellations’ screensaver was referenced multiple times in the book, there is no real role of “life valuable” laptop has to play in the book.
Sofia and Rose, her mother, are in Southern Spain, living off in a flat above the noisy bar off the beach. But, they are here not for a holiday but for a treatment of assumed paralyzed legs of her mother. They are here from England for a treatment from Mr. Gomez, whose physical description takes way too much space in the book than his skillset. Of course, he is not a regular expert that would motivate someone to come across the countries for treatment, but even in his absurd way, he is not essentially treating Rose but Sofia herself.
He insists her to be bolder, recommends her to steal fishes and try things she never did before. He states that she is using her mother as a protective cover to all her insecurities. Even though Ingrid is a much more charming character and much attractive (both physically and mentally) than Gomez, there is a lot of inconsistency that she brings in. If Gomez is an initiator to bring Sofia back to realism distant from the one that she has in her mind, Ingrid is his catalyst. Even though they do not have any interaction between them, they play their respective roles which tie up to the greater cause.
Memory is not always reliable. It is not the whole truth. Even I know that.
The book swifts away from its objective more frequently than you would have wished for. There is her father who abandoned them when she was five only to be married to someone who is almost 20 years older than him. The reference to her father runs multiple ways, even though she still adopts his last name, her impression of him sways from hatred to adjustment to resentment.
The most intriguing part of the book is the self-assessment notes of Sofia.
Identity is always difficult to guarantee.
Her character drives much stronger point than her physique and mental strength- the relativity of emotions we face. The world tries to operate in absolute terms where the life has to run in relative means.
What shade of Bold was I after?
There are more acceptable shades of wrong.
The word is more violent than that.
On the surface, “Hot Milk” seems to focus its attention on a family drama with a strained relationship among its members, but the deeper you dig, it is a pursuit of seeking answers to the eternal question “Who are You?”
I am other things too. I have a first class degree and a master’s. I am pulsating with shifting sexualities. I am sex on tanned legs in suede platform sandals. I am urban and educated and currently godless. I do not resemble an acceptable femininity from my father’s point of view. I’m not sure, but he thinks I am not honoring the family. I don’t know the details.
You cannot escape from the description of a time when you speak of relativity.
We would have to move around in time, the past, the present, and the future, but we are lost in all of them.
Overall, “Hot Milk” by Deborah Levy explores multiple aspects of oneself that dig much deeper than the actual story in itself. Even though subtlety makes way for absurdness at times, it would require much deeper analysis of situations and behaviors to appreciate the beauty of its characters. It sways from flashes of absolute genius to prolonged idiosyncrasies.
Man Booker Shortlist Series:
“His Bloody Project” by Graeme Macrae Burnet
“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty
“All That Man Is” by David Szalay
“Eileen“- Ottessa Moshfegh
“Do Not Say We Have Nothing” – Madeleine Thien