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Sofia a young anthropologist has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother's unexplainable illness She's frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life She and Rose travel to the searing arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant Dr Gomez—their very last chance—in the hope that he might cure Rose's unpredictable limb paralysis but Dr Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine and as the treatment progresses Rose's illness becomes increasingly baffling Sofia's role as detective—tracking Rose's symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain—deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community

10 thoughts on “Hot Milk

  1. says:

    So I finished this book am shaking my head and thinking what a strange little book this was Additionally I am sure that there is much I have missed in symbolism and a deeper meaning I am just not getting A mother and a daughter either the mother is very ill or using her illness as a passive aggressive gesture? A 25 year old daughter who has delayed her thesis in order to take care of her mother a seriously bad co dependent relationship The daughter does not have much in the way of gumption allows herself to be mistreated by her mother has problems standing up for herself A clinic in Spain last ditch effort to find out what is wrong with the mother Is the clinic's doctor call me Gomez a brilliant clinician or a fraud? So in Spain much changes and the strangeness beginsUnlikable characters form the most part a dreamlike vibe from the story wonderful writing but a book open to each person's own interpretations I seriously can't predict how other readers sill feel about this one not even sure how I feel about itARC from Netgalley

  2. says:

    Despite the multiple negative reviews on this one including the New York Times review that describes this novel as wanting in narrative I really loved this book It just goes to show you that not every book is for every reader and that we all look for different things when we read I thought when I liked it and others didn't that it didn't have a shot for the Man Booker prize but the day after I finished it it was named to the shortlist for 2016 I am overflowing like coffee leaking from a paper cup I wonder shall I make myself smaller? Do I have enough space on Earth to make myself less?I have read Deborah Levy before but this is by far my favorite of hers In the past I felt her playwright bent would sometimes dictate how she told a story as if she was visualizing it in a staging sort of way In this novel the characters have rich and complicated internal lives The way she writes them had traces of Jeanette Winterson in her earlier works the always thinking and feeling characters where plot is secondary And I mean that as a compliment since Winterson remains in my top three authors and likely always will So the style the narrative shall we say really worked for me The reader is left faced with either filling in the gaps or discovering that what happens isn't the point so much as the transformative journey of the inner lives I am pulsating with shifting sexualitiesI am sex on tanned legs in suede platform sandalsI am urban and educated and currently godlessOther elements that made me enjoy this novel are the character having a background of anthropology female anthropologists being a notable trend in several of my favorite reads There is something about the approach of anthropology how it notices how it attempts to gain an inside perspective that makes it really work in internal dialogue If anthropology is the study of humankind from its beginning millions of years ago to this day I am not very good at studying myself I have researched aboriginal culture Mayan hieroglyphics and the corporate culture of a Japanese car manufacturer and I have written essays on the internal logic of various other societies but I haven't a clue about my own logic Suddenly that was the best thing that ever happened to me I should also mention the impact of the the limited landscape of an unpleasant Spanish coastal town where jellyfish fill the water and factories and concrete line the shore and the element of an adult child dealing with the real or imagined illness of a parent She captures the strangeness of a mother who demands attention even from her child Her symptoms do all the talking for her They chatter all the timeI told her the beach was desolate and that I had been staring for two hours of a pile of gas canisters It was my special skill to make my day smaller so as to make her day biggerETA After thinking about this one I'm raising my rating to five stars

  3. says:

    I’ve written a lot of book reviews recently in which alcohol had a leading role It was unavoidable—I'd been reading the works of François Rabelais and Flann O’Brien both of whom favour scenarios where uantities of beer and wine are consumed Goodreaders who follow my reviews may have had enough of such alcoholic ramblings so I thought I’d write about hot milk today for a change Not that I expect to find many goodreaders who like hot milk Is there anyone who really finds hot milk palatable—unless it has chocolate powder mixed in The hot milk I remember from childhood had no chocolate powder added What it did have was a skin floating on top and I always considered that skin to be something uite horrible The idea that the skin might touch my mouth was unbearable to contemplate My mother used to stir the milk and break up the skin but I still knew it was there and was certain I would feel it even though she insisted it wasn't there any In any case I stubbornly refused to drink the milk and she stubbornly persisted in offering it to me She must have despaired that her daughter would ever grow up with good teeth and strong bonesThere’s a stubborn mother and daughter duo in Deborah Levy’s latest book and many references to the strength of bones—though oddly enough there’s no indication that any of the book’s themes has anything to do with the title I didn’t find a single mention of hot milk but there are several references to warm milk as in breast milk and also lots of references to heat since the events of the novel mostly happen along the jellyfish infested coastline of Almeria in southern Spain A puzzleThe book is a puzzle uite apart from the title I understood the anthropology themes and the hypochondriac themes and the psychological themes around neglect and guilt but I had a feeling all the time that there was something else under the surface that I wasn't able to see but that I should be seeing It unsettled me and affected my reading My mother would have said it was all in my imagination and that there was nothing else there That old milk skin problem

  4. says:

    A marbled white dome its creamy walls veined with blue minerals is the place of last resort for a mother daughter pair looking for answers It is a posh medical clinic set in an artificial oasis of flowers in the area of Andalusia Spain There are smaller yellowed domes also dotting the nearby Spanish desert and inside them work migrants slaves really who toil inside the geodesic greenhouses to bring about fruit where there should be noneThis dreamlike story is dotted with blatant symbolism throughout It is as bold in its flaunting of mother's milk the stars of the Milky Way and the mythological pathos of the Greek family as the tale's protagonist is lacking in any boldness whatsoever Sofia is a miluetoast a submissive servant to her 67 year old mother who suffers from a yet to be diagnosed condition that numbs and paralyses her feetWe learn that Sofia Papastergiadis is a degreed anthropologist who has stalled her doctoral dissertation to live as caregiver for her long divorced mother Rose in England Her father returned to Greece when Sofia was small abandoning them financially and Rose took on the role of both mother and father over the years As her mother's physical condition has recently and sharply deteriorated Sofie has not just paused but abandoned her degrees and become a barista and waitress Her experience at home makes her excellent at waiting on people At waiting periodWhen the two re mortgage the house to travel to the pricey clinic on the dry southern coast of Spain Sofie must spend an entire summer waiting doing nothing but swimming in the sea and waiting for her mother's treatments at the clinic to take hold The oily waters are plagued with stinging jellyfish medusas with long tentacles that still fire when separated from the body of their floating parental orbs The recurring medusa jellyfish are the obvious tie to the snake headed Medusa of Greek mythology but what Sofia wants most is to use that sort of power to make the her mother's symptoms petrify and die so that she might be freed But she is not bold enough not bold at all If I were to look at my mother just once in a certain way I would turn her to stone Not her literally I would turn the language of allergies dizziness heart palpitations and waiting for side effects to stone I would kill this language stone deadSofie's experiences on this strange geographical coastline are surreal and she confuses little bits of reality Is her mother stuck in the wheelchair really able to walk to the hair salon or did she merely dream it? She mistakes different women for men misreads written words for those that are violently different and is attracted to both a young female and a young male in the seaside village Androgyny is referenced here and there in the story and Ziggy Stardust comes into the tale several times As the stinging medusas are as the author puts it floating in a most peculiar way so too is SofieThis is an exuisitely well written character study and while our heroine is 25 years old she is emotionally delayed in her development I would call Hot Milk a coming of age story with the colors of blue and white playing mainstage with stabs of bright yellow popping in Blue venomous snakes and starfish appear in this sexually symbolic drama where even names have meaning While it is not noted in the book I noticed that the mother is an English Rose and the Greek Orthodox father is called Christos Sofie's surname is unpronounceable by most but it starts with the sound of 'Papa' and aster is the Greek stem word for star I think this author is far clever than we know This would be an outstanding choice for a college lit class The overt symbolism is pure fun to identify but there is incredible depth tooFor those who might be put off by two women kissing it is not Sofie and her mom don't worry I'd say that it wasn't something I was at all expecting but since the title is so obviously emblematic of the female breast it fits Hot milk is the sustenance we all live off as infants and for a mother daughter tale the title is perfect Considering the manipulation and complications of this particular relationship however there is one little trivial tidbit that is exceptionally fittingThe story tells us that Sofie a barista has taken hours long instruction in how to perfectly froth hot milk But while it is not stated in the story anybody working at a coffee house knows this if you boil milk too long it turns acidicThere truly is some acid in Hot Milk and I loved it

  5. says:

    Mothering or lack of it is at the heart of this eccentric breast laden book Breasts everywhere this is a bosomy paradise that features white blue veined marble domed buildings the tell tale wet shirt of a nursing mother a woman selling melons by the road an entire scene that plays out with our heroine Sofia accidentally and unknowingly topless and even the book's apt title The female form is everywhere reminding Sofia of the mothering she missed out on The chesty symbolism protrudes from every other pageIt's understandable that Sofia feels un nurtured She's the spineless daughter of Rose a narcissistic career invalid whose legs work intermittently as if by whim Sofia has abandoned her PhD anthropology degree and pretty much everything else to be at her mother's beck and call No one can figure out what ails Rose As a last resort they re mortgage the house and go to the prestigious Gomez Clinic in Spain in the hopes that she can be cured I am my mother's burden She is my creditor and I pay her with my legs They are always running around for herThis story is told in a dreamy yet accessible stream of consciousness style We are privy to pretty much every inner thought and observation of Sofia's This is the telling of her internal transformation a transformation coming a little late at 25 She has taken on her mother so much that she feels her pain and even emits her imagined symptoms such as her limp Eclipsed by her mother Sofia does not know her own self yet and has not come into her womanhood This time in Spain is her chance to figure it out Themes of androgyny and sexuality pervade the hot seaside landscape She has affairs with a man and a woman She is also repeatedly stung by the nasty placenta shaped Medusa jellyfishThe oddly wise shaman Dr Gomez tells her that she lacks boldness She ends up searching for it by visiting her selfish and estranged father and by deciding whether she is going to let her mother's illness mug her of her life and future My mother's feet are mostly on strike but I'm not sure what she is negotiating for or what the deal breaker would beI loved my reading experience seeing Sofia's transformation I relished the journey all the way through to the 'deal breaker' It was funny clever and rich with symbolism Deborah Levy impressed me by evoking the complex inner world of these characters in a memorable and uniuely feminine way

  6. says:

    I just didn't really get this one Nice writing but the story was all over the place and the dialogue was unnatural

  7. says:

    A haunting enigmatic and dreamlike story analysing a daughter's relationship with her mother and the damage they inflict on one another On the surface not much happens Sofia accompanies her mother Rose to a desert beach resort in Spain where they attend a local clinic to find the mysterious ailment that prevents her mother walking and has various affairs interspersed with a visit to her Greek father and his new family The surface story is insignificant but full of symbolic resonances Like Ali Smith Levy is very perceptive at identifying connections and her characters are fully realised and she fully inhabits their psychological dilemmas I am struggling to convey what is great about this book and why I enjoyed it it is full of striking sentences and observations often slippery and cryptic but never hard to read and it would make a worthy Booker winner I will certainly be reading Levy

  8. says:

    Sophia is twenty five years old and possesses the dark Mediterranean looks of her Greek father She’s clever too – in the academic sense at least – having completed a master’s degree in Anthropology She’s currently working in a London coffee shop whilst struggling to finish her doctoral thesis So a trip to southern Spain to accompany her mother who is seeking a cure for a mystery debilitating illness seems like just the ticket Whilst there she swims and fetches water always the ‘wrong’ water for her mother The rest of the time she spends studying her mother’s symptoms looking for clues to unlock the mystery of her inability to use her legs We are introduced to some interesting characters the unorthodox Dr Gomez and lifeguard Juan who is regularly called upon to smear soothing ointment to combat her many jellyfish stings amongst them In time Sophia meets Ingrid and a mutual attraction uickly develops This is a clever book I did expect the dialogue to be intelligent and sometimes funny because I’d found that to be the highlight of her last novel Swimming Home And it certainly didn’t disappoint in this respect But I’d also found her last book to be a little soulless inhabited by characters I found hard to engage with and I found that to be the case here too But it’s a relatively uick read and I think many will appreciate the well observed study of the mother and daughter relationship that’s at the core of this story My thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for providing an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

  9. says:

    OkayyyThis book is really strange the setting is beautiful and transports you to another ethereal place however the story feels fragmented almost as if Sophie is living in a deamlike trance removed from reality the most perplexing thing is the dialogue The stilted conversations the unusual randomness of the uestions it's like everyone is infected by the same tap water or something which makes everyone act so strangely or perhaps the scorching Mediterranean sun is to blame None of the situations felt real or believable but this book has an uncanny ability to draw you in and it's almost hypnotic you can't look away I found Sophie the most strange she has this childlike uality despite her academic credentials The codependent relationship between motherdaughter is the main theme and the ties that bind Sophie with her mother who is uite a ball and chain dragging Sophie through the mud via her neurotic imagined illnesses The imagery is uite savage despite the idyllic location and the whole book is dotted with symbolic references some easier to comprehend then others it may take a few readings for me to grasp exactly what the writer is trying to convey here but it was strangely compelling and I was intrigued throughout Can't decide between a 3 or a 4 rating so I give it 35

  10. says:

    This is a very self consciously literary novel At times almost overloadedly literary as motifs symbols allusions to current global events poetical dialogue are heaped in the narrative shopping trolley I often felt like the author was trying to cover too much ground and as a result the focus could be a bit blurry Also I couldn't uite get a handle on the narrator who seemed to me like two different women I was never uite sure if what she was telling us was really taking place in particular her erotic adventures and her meeting with her long lost father Perhaps the idea was she was living an alternative fantasy life which was narrated as if it was real But in that case the resolutions between her and mother didn't make sense To be honest I was left a bit baffled It's a novel that purports to be realistic but is often surreal I enjoyed reading it but I can't say I ever loved it However I've got a feeling it might be a better novel than I was able to appreciate