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218 pages, Hardcover
First published January 1, 2015
"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 sexualities.Other 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.
I am sex on tanned legs in suede platform sandals.
I am urban and educated and currently godless."
"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 time."ETA: After thinking about this one more, I'm raising my rating to five stars.
"I 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 bigger."
“Am I self-destructive, or pathetically passive, or reckless, or just experimental, or am I a rigorous cultural anthropologist, or am I in love”.
“You have such a blatant stare … but I have watched you as closely as you have watched me. It’s what mothers do. We watch our children. We know our gaze is powerful so we pretend not to look” – drawing on the idea of a Medusa as Greek God (linked of course to Sofia’s paternal descent) turning people to stone by their stare as Sofia and her mother Rose have held each other petrified by their strange relationship.
“The tide was coming in with all the medusas floating in its turbulence. The tendrils of the jellyfish in limbo, like something cut loose, a placenta, a parachute, a refugee severed from its place of origin”
” It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question 'who am I' except the voice inside herself.”