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Hot Milk
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2016 Longlist [MBP] > Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

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Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
Discussing Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I will probably start with this book as my first longlist-read next week. (My bias: start with a female writer...). Looking forward to it!


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I am about a third in and I am wondering: what do you make of the little snippets in between chapters (the short pieces by an unknown narrator watching 'her')? Anybody any ideas?


Jeanne (grauspitz) Britta wrote: "I am about a third in and I am wondering: what do you make of the little snippets in between chapters (the short pieces by an unknown narrator watching 'her')? Anybody any ideas?"

I just started this one last night myself so I haven't made it all too far in, but I've had similar thoughts about the little snippets. I feel like the narrator of them might play a part in the story later on, maybe even appear as a character?


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I was really looking forward to reading this, but...
There is no other way to say it: the book started to bore me, then annoy me after about 150 pages. I didn't care about the characters, and the writing, though well done, was just too perfect. One beautifully crafted, meaningful sentence after another.
Sorry guys, hope you enjoy it more than me. Looking toward to your thoughts & comments.


Jeanne (grauspitz) I finished this up last night, and I'm left with rather neutral feelings on it. I didn't hate it but I also didn't love it, same with the characters. I just had an overall detached feeling towards the whole story.

Hopefully others enjoy it more than I did!


message 7: by Sabrina (new) - added it

Sabrina (bookish_sabrina) I didn't even make it in 50 pages. I found something really challenging about the writing style, but I can't pinpoint what it is exactly about it that I found so hard to read.

In a weird way, it reminded me of last year's nominee Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (which I really hated), even though they are quite different in plot and style. I'm trying to embrace putting things down that aren't working for me, rather than pushing through them and hating every minute, so I didn't continue.

Therefore, I don't have a lot to say in terms of my thoughts on the book itself. I didn't have time to know the characters or the plot, really. It didn't grab me from what I read.


Robert | 363 comments And this one arrived today! that's my weekend sorted!


message 9: by Kay (new)

Kay | 71 comments I read Levy's other novel Swimming Home last year and absolutely could not stand it. I don't like her writing style at all, and even though I got the point she was trying to make in that book, I just didn't get along with it. Based on that, I was really dubious about reading Hot Milk, so I have been enjoying reading your comments here. Still debating if I should read it..


message 10: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (jillreads) | 48 comments I thought this was a very original and interesting book, and I enjoyed it. I do tend to like books about the complexity of mother/daughter relationships, and I found this to be well written and clever. I have no idea how the title fits in though. Did anyone find this referenced in the book? Anyway, time to read something different from the list. After Lucy Barton & Hot Milk, I think I may need to shake things up a bit. The North Water possibly? That sound like the polar opposite of these two books!


nomadreader (Carrie D-L) (nomadreader) | 2 comments I'm not enjoying this one much. The writing is good, of course, but I don't get the characters as real people and keep expecting the wow moment to explain why I kept reading. As of now, I've kept reading because I loved Swimming Home so much (and also because the book is short.) I have about 30% left to finish, which I expect to finish before getting on this flight.


Robert | 363 comments What an enjoyable read! delicious writing, lots of symbolism - from the names of the characters (Sofia means wisdom in Greek) to the little details (The spider and the wasp, the jellyfish, the beloved/beheaded section).

Someone wondered about the title. As a hint it is indirectly mentioned when Sofia talks to her Step Mother (not a spoiler, we find out that she has a step mother in the first few pages) but the milk theme crops up again towards the end, thus hammering in that this book is essentially about mothers and their importance.

Like Ali Smith, Levy can focus on one plot point but discuss a million other topics in a subtle way. So yes this is about Mother/Daughter relationships but it also is about feminism,anthropology,philosophy and psychology.

One thing is for certain, if Levy keeps this up she'll have written a life changing novel soon.


message 13: by P. (new) - rated it 3 stars

P. (yapn) Didn't hate it. Didn't love it. I wouldn't have missed anything if i hadn't given this a try.


message 14: by Rachel (last edited Aug 11, 2016 07:25PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Rachel | 9 comments I, too, am wondering about the snippets in between chapters and hoping an explanation is revealed later in the book (I'm almost halfway through). I'm expecting it to be (view spoiler), but I could be way off. Like a few people have mentioned already, I also feel very detached from the characters. I'll most likely finish it (just to say I have and to be able to tick off another title from the longlist) but it certainly won't be leaving any lasting impressions on me.


Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
Wasn't a huge fan. Good writing excerpt for the stilted dialogue. It was so strange. I still don't know the chronological order because some events at the end really threw me off. Another disappointment from the list this year. :/


message 16: by P. (new) - rated it 3 stars

P. (yapn) This year's list doesn't seem as good as the last year's! Very disappointing. Have finished Eileen, Lucy Barton & Hot Milk and none of them were worth rooting for.


Robert | 363 comments Weirdly enough I'm really enjoying the four books (Sellout, North water, hot milk , do not say we have nothing) I've read on the longlist with Hot Milk being a highlight.


Robert | 363 comments Well last year's booker longlist was very good but there was one theme running throughout the list and that was family relations -this year it's more eclectic. Both stylistically and thematically. It reflects the 2014 list which was just as varied and interesting.


Craig Rimmer | 33 comments I agree with Sabrina about similarities with Satin Island but Hot Milk does go in a completely different direction. I enjoyed this book an awful lot but couldn't give it more than 4 stars. So many layers to it and I felt Sophie and her Mum, Rose leapt off the page, they were so alive


Michelle (topaz6) I quite liked the writing and all the different parts of this book, I just didn't feel like they were able to come together like they should or like they were meant to.

I feel like this book might have taken some influence by the Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous (especially with the jellyfish bits), but not having read that, I can't quite say what.


Robert | 363 comments There are absolutely no similarities between Hot Milk and Satin Island - other than the fact that the person hated reading them and that not justifiable - at least for me.


message 22: by P. (new) - rated it 3 stars

P. (yapn) I cannot draw any parallels between satin island & this either !


Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
Pechi wrote: "I cannot draw any parallels between satin island & this either !"

I do see some similarities in the sort of listless wandering that the two books take. They don't necessarily have central plots or action. Instead, they go off on these tangents and then return back to the narrator for a bit. Also they both focus heavily on identity and human relationships in some way. Not saying there are strong parallels, but I can see how one might get that feeling.


Craig Rimmer | 33 comments Also both the main characters are anthropologists and both works are very much into the stream of consciousness


Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
Craig wrote: "Also both the main characters are anthropologists and both works are very much into the stream of consciousness"

Good points! I totally forgot about the anthropology connection


Craig Rimmer | 33 comments PS I liked both books


Robert | 363 comments hmm however the character in hot milk is an anthropologist in the traditional sense while Y's line of anthropology is different. I think the details in hot milk eventually contain symbolic importance but in satin island, the details sum up 21st century thinking.


Robert | 363 comments p.s i liked both books and my first degree is in anthropology


Julianne Quaine | 35 comments Hot milk - I really wanted Sophia to do something drastic about changing her life. After flitting around the edges finally on page 210 she does and that redeemed the book for me. Her mother is a despicable character throughout but finally we learn what she has achieved in her life and we can feel some empathy for her too. I think it is Ingrjd who is the author of the in between chapter bits- she's spying on Sophia - us she Sophia's alter ego? And the reference to milk relates to mothers who nurture - but hot milk can also burn and scald. Also references to the Milky Way and the smashed screen saver of Sophia's laptop. So many oblique references - it deserves a second read. An intriguing book but I can't say I enjoyed it immensely. I suspect it will make the short list but might need to reevaluate after I've read others - this is the fourth for me. 3 stars


message 30: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Very impressed with this - restored my faith in the jury after a few duds from the list - wonderful use of language and symbolism.

On the Satin Island connection, I also noticed a mention of buffering!


message 31: by Doug (new) - rated it 5 stars

Doug | 78 comments Had not read any Levy before this, but am now a huge fan, and will definitely read Swimming Home and her plays as soon as I finish the Booker longlist. I like books that can't be pigeon-holed and this certainly fulfills that requirement. Full disclosure: however, my enthusiasm for this undoubtedly stems from having a family dynamic that very closely mirrors the one in the book (i.e., I am a person that struggled to finish a difficult Ph.D., am a long time caregiver for a sometimes impossible 94 year old mother, and have a father that deserted his first family and started a second one, whom I have not seen in 45 years). Need I say more?


message 32: by Neil (last edited Aug 22, 2016 02:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 511 comments Doug wrote: "Had not read any Levy before this, but am now a huge fan, and will definitely read Swimming Home and her plays as soon as I finish the Booker longlist. I like books that can't be pigeon-holed and t..."

Doug, I can't claim the same similarities, but (about 20% in) I am really enjoying this. If it keeps going, it may go to the top of my list. I can see why several people have noted similarities to Ali Smith.


message 33: by Neil (last edited Aug 23, 2016 01:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 511 comments Just finished this. I believe it is my favourite book of 2016, not just of the Man Booker Long List. Here is my 5* review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Only the Coetzee left to read from the long list. I think I can confidently predict this will be my personal winner.


message 34: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Finke (tobyf) | 32 comments Just finished this. It's really good, but the characters are often unrealistic and they take you out of the story. Very often you will thin, "But people don't really talk that way". I definitely would have liked this more if it wasn't longlisted. It didn't give me higher expectations, it just made me think it would be more literary. I do think it will be shortlisted, but in my mind, it can't win. Don't go into this thinking it will be beautiful and profound, expect something well thought out and enjoyable. I gave it a 3.5.


message 35: by Kathe (last edited Aug 23, 2016 08:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kathe Coleman | 46 comments Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

The narrator/protagonist Sofia Papastergiadis is twenty-five and has been the caregiver for her psychosomatic mother Rose since she was five. She has a master’s degree in anthropology and was in the process of completing her thesis when she was forced to be her mother’s full time aid. Mortgaging their home and in a last ditch effort to find a cure for her mother’s erratic paralysis, she accompanies her from their home in London to clinic in Almeria Spain where Gomez Lucus runs a clinic known for its unorthodox treatment plans. Shamanic Gomez sees immediately that there are two people in desperate need of help and he encourages Sofia to visit her father, a father who abandoned her when she was five and whom she has not seen for eleven years. He is sixty-nine and lives in Greece with his new wife, Alexandra (26) and their three-year-old daughter Evangeline. Compiled from an assemblage of details the story explores the themes of mother/daughter relationships, sexuality, female rage and family dysfunction. The writing is clever, somewhat mysterious and dreamy. The snippets between the chapters had me speculating whose voice was narrating but became clear about a third of the way through. Short book but mighty. 4.8-5.0


David | 40 comments This was an intriguing little book. I felt fully absorbed in it while reading and it certainly packs a lot of rich imagery and depth into a relatively short novel. However, I’m not sure it fully came together enough for me as a whole. I drew similarities in style to Ali Smith and maybe a bit of Han Kang, both of whom aren’t afraid to experiment and to bring the reader through rich, thought provoking scenes in their novels. But Smith definitely, and Kang maybe, are better at delivering a tighter storyline I think, even with abstract themes. Of the contenders for the Booker Prize on the longlist, I certainly think it is one of the better ones. Not sure if it's my winner though.


Charlott (halfjill) | 39 comments I have mixed feelings about this book. I actually did like the writing style. I do not think it would work for me in a much longer form, but in this short form I loved to dig into these sentences, sentiments and metaphors. I liked to read about Medusas (from the jellyfish to the mentioning of stares that could transform people into stone), the chained and then freed dog, all the ways milk was worked into the narrative. I feel like sometimes you could see the work which went into the text and I would understand people not liking this kind of obviously crafted style. The text reminded me of air shimmering of heat.

But I am still not sure what to think about some things in the plotline. Obviously illness is central to the story and there where many aspects around this which I did not like so much or I found questionable at least . From the beginning on the reader is made to question the truthfulness of the mom's health impairments. She is a very needy character and also very dominant. I do not feel this is a very original portrayel. So often sick people are portrayed through the lense of a healthy (whatever that is) person. And also "the unlikeable sick person" seems to be a trope used in different narratives. Of course we only see the actions of the mother through the eyes of Sofia, who is not the most likeable character herself (even though I actually liked her). Sickness here definitly becomes a metaphor. It is not just about experiencing sicknes, even not only about the question of real vs. pretend, but also the symptoms themselves can be read as imagery for other points being made. I think I'd like to pair the book with Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor". (view spoiler)


Ernie (ewnichols) | 66 comments I'm not sure if anyone has read or heard the following, but I wanted to share a brief interview with the judges (Amanda Foreman (Chair) and Abdulrazak Gurnah) on why books on the longlist made the longlist.

Deborah Levy (UK) - Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton)
“Hot Milk is a subtle, disturbing book that keeps the reader delightfully on edge to the very end.”

Gurnah: Well, it’s a book which is full of symbolism, as well as a very engaging story…and quite strong characters. There’s the hypochondriac mother, for example, which is brilliantly drawn. But there is also, you know, that as you are reading, there is another layer below that that keeps you intrigued and interested, requiring you to both engage and also interpret beyond the text. It’s a very clever novel.


message 39: by Readerwhy (new) - added it

Readerwhy (goodreadscom_readerwhy) | 1 comments Jill wrote: "I thought this was a very original and interesting book, and I enjoyed it. I do tend to like books about the complexity of mother/daughter relationships, and I found this to be well written and cle..."

One reference is when Sofia's mother cooked traditional Greek food, she used hot milk. Maybe also a reference to a special kind of mother's milk :D


Craig Rimmer | 33 comments Paul, spot on re:buffering


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