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The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography

(Living Autobiography #2)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  7,435 ratings  ·  811 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
...more
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published April 5th 2018)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  7,435 ratings  ·  811 reviews


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Ilse
Jun 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2021
Freedom is never free. Anyone who has struggled to be free knows how much it costs.

Even if I thought the first part of Deborah Levy’s ‘Living Biography’ trilogy not particularly captivating, these slim volumes in bright blue, yellow and red are so alluringly designed I feel irresistibly drawn to them, even I haven’t read any of Deborah Levy’s novels( yet). Admittedly, just serve me up one part of a trilogy and I compulsively will wolf down the other two.

The second part of the trilogy felt more
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Adam Dalva
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even stronger than the excellent Things I Don't Want to Know, Levy is firing on all cylinders in this short memoir segment, which details a year of change after a divorce, and examines instances of erasure of women in modern society. The scenes are memorable, poignant, and often hilarious (a run over chicken from a grocery store in a road; leaves in her hair during a pitch; birds sipping water on a porch.)

"To separate from love is to live a risk-free life. What's the point of that sort of life?
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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
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Michael
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs, 2019
A meditation on marriage, death, and writing, The Cost of Living explores what it means to find a new sense of purpose at midlife. The memoir’s made up of fourteen short personal essays that bring together literary analysis, social criticism, and autobiography. Read in sequence, the essays chart Levy’s attempt to build a new life for herself and her children after she separated from her longtime husband at fifty; as the author vividly recounts her journey, she surveys what writers like Marguerit ...more
Trish
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
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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
Roman Clodia
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
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'), but she's also nicely self-conscious about writing, thinking about both material (mothers and daughters) and modes
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Michael Livingston
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Elyse  Walters
Sep 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“Freedom is never free. Anyone who has had their freedom knows what it costs”.

…A broken down house -after a broken down marriage—
…a mother’s death to cancer
…the awareness of being fifty…a woman, a writer, and a mother of two daughters…

… A new electric bike > (she took out a lot of her rage from her old life on this new bike)….
cycling fast…
Levy figured the crash of her marriage had already happened so any crash that happened on her bike would be minor in comparison.

…much to think about in asso
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Lisa
Jun 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Levy shines a light on everyday events with an approachable, clear style and packs each page with insight.
Lee
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.
Jill
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
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Doug
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
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
Lotte
For me, this was the right book at the right time. Reading memoirs and finding something universal in someone's personal experience has felt like a great comfort recently. Even though Deborah Levy's individual situation in isn't one I can specifically relate to (never gotten divorced, don't have kids), her seeking to carve out a new space for herself in the world and grappling with the overwhelming question of what shape this space might take, what her own version of living might look like, felt ...more
Hannah
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impeccably structured, heart-breaking and still somehow optimistic, with prose as sharp as ever. I love Levy's writing. I liked the essays closer to her life more than the ones that tried to draw on wider societal themes but the ending did nearly make me give this five stars. The impressive way she draws back to what she said before and the way in which she constructed this memoir like one of her fiction novels might still make me change my mind. Near perfect. ...more
nastya
To live without love is a waste of time. I was living in the Republic of Writing and Children. I was not Simone de Beauvoir, after all. No, I got off the train at a different stop (marriage) and stepped on to a different platform (children). She was my muse but I was certainly not hers.


The book is well written (well, it's Deborah Levy, after all) and often smart and observant but also a bit random and unsubstantial. It’s like reading the diary of a woman going through her divorce and encounteri
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Neil
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, 2018
Now re-read, along with "Things I Don't Want to Know", in preparation for reading the third part of the trilogy, "Real Estate". It makes me think, even more than last time, that I need to also re-read Levy's novels (Swimming Home and Hot Milk, specifically).

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ORIGINAL REVIEW
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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
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aayushi girdhar
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk
'One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.'
- Simone de Beauvoir

levy was 50 when her life fell apart. with the end of her twenty year marriage, and the death of her mother, here she is trying to find her ground in the chaos through grief and transition, through the slow progress up a hill, the crashing of a boat, and deconstruction of an old, stable house. she calls this series her 'living autobiography' she wrote it while living in her friend's shed. there is a distinct open ended quality in
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Jaclyn
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well that was glorious.
Camelia Rose
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, motherhood, audio
The Cost of Living is a personal essay collection. After having divorced at age of 50, Deborah Levy sets up as a single parent in a London flat, finding time and space to write, meanwhile grieving for the death of her mother. This collection is about motherhood, feminism, and intellectual life.

The author compares herself with Simone de Beauvoir:

To live without love is a waste of time. I was living in the republic of writing and children. I was not Simone de Beauvoir after all. No, I had got off
...more
D
Jul 17, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. A short, very well written, and reasonably interesting sequence of autobiographical and sometimes funny musings. See here or here (more detailed) for better reviews.


I definitely prefer the novels by this author.

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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
...more
jo
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
the thing with deborah levy is that she is an original thinker and a beautiful writer, so, really, she could write a whole book about persimmons and i'd read her.

this is beautiful. it's a loose memoir about being a woman writer in a patriarchal world and also a mother and a physical being with physical needs. in reflecting on all these things levy pulls in a ton of authors that will make you feel like why on earth haven't you read them while at the same time making you aware that you will never
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Pranjal Joshi
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“What is a woman for?”
“What should a woman be?”

Deborah Levy is the veritable Sylvia Plath of prose-A modern day Medusa who returns the ‘male gaze’ with her lacerating penwomanship…..
“It was not that easy to convey to him….that the world was her world too.”

Levy’s working autobiography is her means of catharsis for surviving the tempest of her collapsing marriage and coping with the death of her mother. The book maps her creative endeavor to break free from the habit of being unhappy. Writing in h
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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.
Katerina
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. ...more
Andrea
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. ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Living Autobiography (3 books)
  • Things I Don't Want to Know
  • Real Estate

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