Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography” as Want to Read:
The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,347 ratings  ·  179 reviews
A searching examination of all the dimensions of love, marriage, mourning, and kinship from two-time Booker Prize finalist Deborah Levy.

To strip the wallpaper off the fairy tale of The Family House in which the comfort and happiness of men and children has been the priority is to find behind it an unthanked, unloved, neglected, exhausted woman.

The Cost of Living explores t
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Cost of Living, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Cost of Living

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,347 ratings  ·  179 reviews

Sort order
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I didn't realize this was part of an autobiographical project Deborah Levy had already started (the first being Things I Don't Want to Know) she calls "working autobiography," but after enjoying this one so much, I will definitely go back and read the others, past and future.

I can't quote from my copy because it is an advanced readers copy, but that would take forever as I believe I highlighted half of it. It's about reinventing herself at 50, of leaving a marriage that wasn't working, of formin
Deborah Levy is a woman for our times. She is up to her neck in this moment, stewing like a teabag. One can imagine calming a stressed constituent by sitting her down and handing her a cup…a copy of Levy’s slim new book, a working autobiography, a quiet, private, assessing look at a life which tries to keep the love from leaking out.
“Femininity, as a cultural personality, was no longer expressive for me. It was obvious that femininity, as written by men and performed by women, was the exhausted
Dannii Elle
Towards the end of last year I picked up a collection of essays by Deborah Levy, entitled Things I Don't Want to Know. These essays were written as a feminist response to George Orwell's Why I Write, which I was reading at the time. I adored Orwell's writing but there was something about Levy's essay-formed responses that sparked something inside of me. When I saw her next volume of essays were due to be published, shortly after this, I knew I had to read them too, and was instantly sure I was g ...more
Eric Anderson
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deborah Levy has a unique style of writing which references a disparate range of influences and layers in a lot of symbolism in order to tease out some of the most essential questions about life. I admired the way her novel “Hot Milk” looks at what happens when familial roles are reversed or become more fluid. So it's absolutely fascinating reading “The Cost of Living” which is part of what's been branded Levy's “living autobiography” and follows the time period in which she wrote “Hot Milk”. Sh ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“All writing is about looking and listening and paying attention to the world,” writes Deborah Levy (and where has she been all my life?) She’s an exquisite writer who crafts her words lyrically and with great insight.

Here, in this slim and sensual working autobiography, she becomes her own key character, leaving her marriage of two decades (“To become a person someone else had imagined for us is not freedom—it is to mortgage our life to someone else’s fear) with her two daughters. Vivid scenes
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are some writers, if I haven’t read them for a while, I start to get an itch to read them, and it’s all about the voice. I’m not really bothered what the very best writers want to talk about - especially essayists - as it’s just about getting to spend time in that person’s head and share their sensibility.
Roman Clodia
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of short, thoughtful pieces from Levy that range from her separation from her husband to a meeting about filming her 'Swimming Home'. Anyone who has read Levy will not be surprised by her attention to the constrictions and constructions of gender ('This is what I resented most, that my mind had been abducted and was full of Him. It was nothing less than an occupation'). Knowing little about her other than a couple of her novels, I was interested to see that we share some literary he ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Levy is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and with my finishing this, she is now tied with English playwright Mike Bartlett for my 'Most Read Author' (with 13 entries each). This is both a continuation and further development in her 'living autobiography' series, and just as potent, startling and illuminating as part one, 'Things I Don't Want to Know', which mined her early life, whereas this concerns mainly the past three or four years. They are both quick reads, but worth slowing down f ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This short memoir looks at two particularly trying times in her life - her divorce and the death of her mother shortly thereafter. She also examines women’s roles in society and questions why women so easily forgo their own ambitions, comfort, and safety for the sake of maintaining a home for a spouse and children. Very meditative and insightful.
Deborah Levy copes with a loss (well, two, actually), writes in her friend's cold shed, feeds her dying mom ice-lollies and rides an electric bike, all with a resounding, bewitching self-conscience. You go girl. Woman. Go, go, we're rooting for you.
Michael Livingston
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A short but brilliant memoir about life in the aftermath of Levy's divorce - the challenges and opportunities of rebuilding a life at 50. The writing is spectacular - funny, insightful and rich.
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
This is the second part of Levy’s "living autobiography". The first part is Things I Don't Want to Know which consisted of 4 short essays/memoirs relating events from different times in Levy’s life in response to the four motivations for writing identified by Orwell in his essay "Why I Write". This second part is a non-fiction novel that takes us through a turbulent period in Levy’s life (the break up of her marriage and the death of her mother which occurred within about a year of one another). ...more
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 rounded up

I didn't think it was possible that I'd enjoy this more than Things I Don't Want to Know but I'm glad that I did! I can't quite put my finger on what exactly appeals to me so much about this "living autobiography" Levy is writing - I mean, her writing is brilliant, but there's more to it than that. Her observations are thought-provoking, and I enjoyed reading about her ~journey~ rebuilding her life after her marriage ends. I just wish these books were at least double the length the
Beth Bonini
”To strip the wallpaper off the fairy tale of The Family House in which the comfort and the happiness of men and children have been the priority is to find behind it an unthanked, unloved, neglected, exhausted woman. It requires skill, time, dedication and empathy to create a home that everyone enjoys and that functions well. Above all else, it is an act of immense generosity to be the arthcitect of everyone else’s well-being.”

“To not feel at home in her family is the beginning of of the bigger
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ended the new year with one heck of a book.
My last read of 2018 was beyond amazing. It continues to have such an impact on me that I feel like I need to reread it at least a couple of times this year. A nonfiction memoir, I read this at just the right time; it was calling me from my TBR pile and wasn't a planned read at all.
It is about what it is to be alive. Levy writes SO well, with razor sharp insights. I have tabbed ample pages. I remember reading this at my sister's and after
Cátia Vieira
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why should you read this book?
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy follows the acclaimed Things I Don’t Want to Know (read this review here). I loved the first installment which left me with my expectations very high for this one! I was not disappointed. The Cost of Living is just as fantastic.

This one, as the previous book, is a ‘living autobiography’ that revolves around Levy’s ideas on womanhood, motherhood and writing. If you love literary biographies, then this will make the perfect read.

Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book on the heels of Rachel Cusk's Kudos. The two books share some subject matter and to some extent, narrative voice, though Cusk's is a novel and Levy's is a "working autobiography." Levy's book, for me, is the braver of the two: arresting, riveting, alive and alert. In the third of Cusk's trilogy, different from the first two, I came to dislike how hidden the narrator felt...not her voice but her self. Levy is very present. Her sharp intelligence, the juxtapositions and associatio ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think many women reach their fifties and feel there has been a huge shift in their lives. Here Deborah Levy reflects on her life at this age, when her marriage has ended, her mother has died, and she has moved to a new apartment with her daughters. She explores what it is to be a woman untethered from her role, what it is to be by herself, what it is to start again.

It's empowering, beautiful and life affirming. Those all seem cliche comments but this book is really wonderful. Levy seems a ver
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Short in size, long in depth. Contemporary literature at its best, in terms of technique (which is meta-referenced in the book), in terms of issues of the day. This is what it's like as an adult, parent, liberal, urban, Western, middle-aged person feels like whether in London, New York, Frankfurt, São Paulo (all cities I've lived). In short, recommend for adults only.
Rachel Godin
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This helped me to process the feelings of my mother (though they are still partially undisclosed) as she left my father at the same age Levy leaves her husband. I recommend this to people who feel a new life emerging from the ashes of the one they are living now. This book is introspective and pulls your attention to the small details of life that make it worth living.
Callum McAllister
Deborah knows.
Opening lines: ‘As Orson Welles told us, if we want a happy ending, it depends on where we stop the story.’
Nicole D.
May 13, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, amazon-vine
I love Deborah Levy's writing, I think she's brilliant. Hot Milk blew me away. This book is a series of essays about stuff going on in her life or observations and it feels like there's a lot of lessons being shared. A lot of introspection. Which is fine if you are in the headspace for that. I am not.

The writing is, of course, fantastic - so if introspection and life lessons is where you want to be then recommended.
Tiffany Reisz
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really good. I'd love to read more non-fiction from her.
Lolly K Dandeneau
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
via my blog:
'Above all else, it is an act of immense generosity to be the architect of everyone else’s well-being.

The task is still mostly perceived as women’s work.'

There is a lot to chew on in this short ‘Working Autobiography’ by Deborah Levy. Thinking about the pressing weight of not just the roles women are forced to play but of the love we carry and let alter us, sometimes reducing, sometimes expanding isn’t an easy bone to chew on. Levy is leaving her
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Really now. I have been reading a few very short books of late which receive quite remarkable reviews in their favor. Alas, I feel as if I just read someone's grocery list with a small aside perhaps for family, friends and the usual strife of life. Oh well, to their great credit they are mercifully short.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Loved the opening pages /story, but the rest meandered all over the place. It didn't speak to me at all (and what was the deal with my-friend-who-cried-at- the-funeral after she was complaining about the man who never used women's first names?)
Brilliant and astounding. I want to read Levy's novels again. I read this in the perfect time of my life right now. It's going to stay with me a long time, one of those bible books that never leaves my side.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam
  • The Face: Cartography of the Void
  • Cockroaches
  • Free Woman: Life, Liberation, and Doris Lessing
  • To Throw Away Unopened
  • My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk's Wife in Japan
  • My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends
  • The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy
  • A Life of My Own
  • Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush
  • An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic
  • The Solitude of Self: Thinking About Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul
  • Where Art Belongs
  • Thrown
  • Не жизнь, а сказка (Персона)
  • A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique & American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s
  • Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing
Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their "intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination", including PAX, HERESIES for the Royal Shakespeare Company, CLAM, CALL BLUE JANE, SHINY NYLON, HONEY BABY MIDDLE ENGLAND, PUSHING THE PRINCE INTO DENMARK and MACBETH-FALSE MEMORIES, some of which are published in LEVY ...more
“I will never stop grieving for my long-held wish for enduring love that does not reduce its major players to something less than they are.” 5 likes
“Life falls apart. We try to get a grip and hold it together. And then we realize we don't want to hold it together.” 4 likes
More quotes…