If you’ve been into any branch of Waterstones this past week, you’ll have not failed to spot this little novel; it’s our fiction book of the month for June. I treat BOTM as a book club and read as many of the choices as I can.
Having caught snippets on Radio 4 while it was still published in hardback, I knew some of the plot: Sofia and her mother visit southern Spain in search of healing. Sofia is a slightly hapless twenty-something, wasting her first class masters in anthropology while she works as a Barista, sleeping in the store’s stockroom. Her mother, Rose, is in her mid-sixties, suffering from mysterious paralysis. Along the way, Sofia meets the alluring Ingrid, the temporary (and tempting) lifeguard Juan, the unerving, patrician Dr Gomez and ‘Nurse Sunshine’, her newly-religious, estranged Greek father, alongside chained-up Alsatians, pregnant cats, stuffed monkeys and a multitude of jellyfish.
The characters hide as much as they reveal. The clashes between Spanish, Greek and Yorkshire cultures is amusingly evident, and the heat of the Spanish sun is almost palpable.
The novel is claustrophobic, mysterious and lyrical. It explores issues of identity, wellness, duty, sexuality, and fractured families.
The Guardian describes it as ‘hypnotic’; I was certainly entranced while reading.
Although short (little over two hundred pages long), the characters remain in my thoughts; the heat of the sun and sting of the jellyfish stay on my skin.
A great, lyrical summer read.
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (ISBN 9780241968031)