With the announcement of 2016’s Man Booker Prize just days away — on Tuesday, October 25 for all those book-lovers keeping track — readers everywhere are busy checking out all the Prize-nominated novels and the fabulous writers who wrote them. If you’ve found yourself wondering: who is Deborah Levy, the answer is definitely: more than the author of the Man Booker Prize-nominated novel Hot Milk — although the ethereal and spare precision of Levy’s writing, which guides readers through the story of a painful and complicated mother/daughter relationship makes Hot Milk a title to beat. But beyond the pages of Hot Milk, Levy is a South African-born British novelist, poet, and playwright, trained at the UK-based Dartington College of Arts, whose work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed on BBC Radio 4, and who has also been nominated for a number of literary fellowships and awards. In fact, Hot Milk will be Levy’s second Man Booker Prize-nominated title.
Hot Milk is the sixth of Levy’s novels — which include the previously Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Swimming Home . The prolific writer has also written four short story collections, one nonfiction title, a poetry collection, and over twenty plays for both stage and radio. In addition to being a Man Booker Prize nominee once before (in 2012) Levy has also been shortlisted for the UK Author of the Year prize, the BBC International Short Story Award, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.
Levy’s latest award-nominated novel tells the story of mother/daughter duo Sofia and Rose Papastergiadis, who find themselves on a road trip across the southern coast of Spain — Sofia after hitting the pause button on both her unfulfilling job as a barista in a London café and an anthropology career that hasn’t quite taken off yet, and Rose after remortgaging her home in order to afford the trip — bound for a mysterious, coastal clinic run by a dubious Dr. Gómez, where both hope to finally find a cure for Rose’s decades-long, unexplained paralysis. But for Sofia, this journey is about far more than finding a cure for her mother — it’s about finding a cure for her own co-dependency with the woman, and untwining her identity from that of her mother’s. Hot Milk is a haunting and intense novel — short but packed with the complex interior life of Sofia, who is often so consumed with her mother’s illness that she begins to exhibit symptoms, at least psychosomatically, herself. Throughout the novel Sofia undergoes a somewhat-belated coming of age, becoming ever-bolder as she extracts herself from the tangle of her mother’s simultaneous affections and eviscerations.
Hot Milk finds itself in good company on the Man Booker Prize shortlist, celebrated among Paul Beatty’s The Sellout , Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project , Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen , David Szalay’s All That Man Is , and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing . This year’s winner will be announced at a black-tie dinner in London, during a ceremony that will be broadcast by the BBC.