Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, read by Romola Garai.
Two strangers arrive in a small Spanish fishing village. The older woman is suffering from mysterious paralysis, driven to seek a cure beyond the bounds of conventional medicine. 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, searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, Sofia is forced to confront her difficult relationship with her mother. Examining female rage and sexuality, Deborah Levy explores the strange and monstrous nature of motherhood, testing the bonds of parent and child to a breaking point.
©2016 Deborah Levy (P)2016 Penguin Books Ltd.
Oh my gosh what an exciting novel Hot Milk is. I was a bit worried by the title that I was about to read some sort of weird MILF erotica. Just to be clear, it isn't MILF erotica (or any other kind of erotica). It is a very sexy novel, but not in the way you’re thinking.
It’s the story of Sofia and her mother, Rose. They are in Spain seeking treatment for an ailment that has stumped Rose’s doctors in England.
Sofia at 24, is an example of “failure to launch.” She has quit her PhD in anthropology to care for her mother. She works in a coffee shop. She has no romantic relationships, no home of her own. She failed her drivers licence four times. Seriously - four times! I'm in no place to criticise here, but she didn't even pass the theory!
The relationship between Sofia and Rose crackles with tension and hums with rage. Between them they are stuck. But as the epigraph of the novel instructs: "It's up to you to break the old circuits.” And it is up to Sofia and Rose to narrate their own new legends.
In Spain Sofia turns her anthropological eye upon herself. It's the beginning of her discovery of her sexuality, her seductiveness and her inner monster.
Levy's prose is itself powerfully seductive. It as warm as the air of southern Spain. It's smooth and divine and devilishly funny. It's also terribly sensual. The story has an ethereal quality that makes it feel hard to pin down at first, but the golden thread of Levy's metaphors lead us to see both the divine and the mortal in Sofia.
Romola Garai's velvety narration brings divinity to the seductiveness of Levy's prose. It's a perfect match of book and narrator. Garai's voicing, timing, characterisation - it's all perfect. I hope she'll find time in her busy schedule to narrated other audiobooks. Bravo Ms Garai, and bravo Ms Levy. A beautiful combination.
I'm not a classicist so I keep the internet handy when I'm reading. I get really excited by references that help me understand the book I'm reading better. In this instance I hunted down "milk as metaphor" ("hot milk" is semen for those interested. I wonder who else was visiting Juan in the injury hut! Otherwise "milk" can refer to spiritual immaturity, which I liked as a metaphor in this instance, or "mother's milk"). I also read about the myth of the Medusa, the beautiful, strong maiden who is turned into a powerful monster, later beheaded at the command of Athena. Also The Laugh of the Medusa, the essay from which Hot Milk takes its epigraph. Keep an ear out for David Bowie lyrics too!
Did I mention I loved this book? I loved this book. Seriously, loved it. It's long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and is a very worthy contender.
Romola Garai's voice is so beautiful, I can't wait for her to narrate some more books. The story has been described as hypnotic and her voice is absolutely perfect for it. Loved it.
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