Hot Milk / Varm Mjölk
If you’re looking for something good to read this summer, try Deborah Levy’s novel Hot Milk, about a neurotic relationship between a daughter and her mother.
A scorching Spanish sun looms over a sea swarming with stinging medusas, forming a mythical backdrop to the characters in the book who wage war with their internal monsters as they attempt to make sense of love,... loyalty and codependency.
Sofia, a young anthropologist, lays aside her career to accompany her mother, Rose, on a trip to Spain. Rose has booked herself into the Gomez Clinic, run by the dubious Dr Gomez and his assistant Nurse Sunshine, to find the cause of her mysterious ailments.
Unemployed, unattached and uncertain about herself, Sofia is there to assist her mother, although it becomes obvious from the start that this is a futile task. No matter how obliging the long-suffering Sofia is, Rose sinks further into hypochondria and is constantly critical of her daughter. Whenever her mother asks Sofia to bring her water, Sofia knows it will always be the wrong sort of water.
One begins to wonder who the victim is and who is doing the suffering. Sofia is at a loss: how can she both protect her mother and protect herself from her? A compelling narrative unfolds about feminine wrath, sexuality and parental love.
As Sofia tries hard to find answers and to understand the person she really is, she meets up with and array of intriguing characters who become her friends, her enemies, her lovers and her guides.
Deborah Levy, the author of two Man Booker prize-shortlisted novels, has written a wise and amusing tale that is thoroughly engrossing.