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2016 Man Booker Shortlist: Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

hot milk

Next up on our list of Man Booker candidates is Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Once again, all five of us read this book and most of us loved it. Here are our thoughts on its chances of taking home the big prize.Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Published: 2016
Read our reviews here
Find it/buy it here: Hot Milk

Amazon synopsis: Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.

Jen’s Thoughts: I loved this book and it was probably my favorite out of all the books on the list in terms of overall enjoyment. I adored the writing and really enjoyed the symbolism, literary qualities, and way it highlighted women’s feelings/issues.
Why it could win: lyrical, poetic writing, clever use of symbolism.
Why it might not win: Man Booker winners tend to go to books that are either written by men or feature male characters as protagonists. This is the most feminine book I’ve seen on the list in a long time. I think that’s important and it’s about time that a book centered on women and about women’s inner lives wins. But will it? I don’t think so. In addition, it’s relatively light in terms of plot and that may work against it.

Nicole’s Thoughts: This was my favorite of the books. It was just about perfect and the writing was transcendent.
Why it could win: The sheer beauty of the writing
Why it might not win: Too “chicky” … haha, this isn’t chick lit at all, but it’s very feminine

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I loved this book but it is really hard to put into words what I loved.
Why it could win: The writing is beautiful and it is a very poetical book full of symbolism and interpretation.
Why it might not win: The title, silly reason I know but it is very off putting and if I only had that to go by I would not have read the book.

Kate’s Thoughts: This book created a magical atmosphere that is hard to describe.
Why it could win: It’s sheer lyrical effect.
Why it might not win: The long list seemed heavy on blood, guts, and mayhem this year.  This novel was the polar opposite.  On the other hand most of the grittier titles didn’t make the short list.  Maybe the judges are ready for a novel that is as much poetry as prose, but I doubt it.

Andrew’s thoughtsA good read, but ultimately I found something about it unsatisfactory. It was all a little too languid and lyrical for my taste.  In terms of style, it reminded me of Robert Penn Warren’s “All The King’s Men” (not that these two books have anything in common).  Books that read like Impressionist paintings have never really appealed to me.  By the end I had a sense of what Levy was getting at, but wasn’t completely satisfied with how she got there.
Why it could win: Every other member of our shadow panel loved it, so it must be good!
Why it might not win: Kind of a terrible title

We want to hear from you. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you think it will win the 2016 Man Booker?

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am looking forward to reading Hot Milk – sounds great!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2016
    • I hope you like it. I’ve seen it get mixed reviews so I look forward to reading your thoughts


      October 11, 2016
  2. Tracy S #

    I really liked this one, too. There are some very strong contenders this year- it’s been a great year to be a reader!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2016
  3. I just picked this book up at the library on a whim. After reading this post, I am now really excited to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2016
  4. Anita Pomerantz #

    Why It Could Win: Gorgeous, evocative writing about identity and the child/parent relationship. Think it has the potential to stand the test of time (something the Sellout will not do) in the same way as The Awakening.

    Why It May Not: Find it hard to imagine men selecting this book, so depending on the gender balance of the prize panel, it may be a tough row to hoe.


    October 11, 2016
  5. Book Worm #

    I love that Andrew is on my wave length about the title 🙂


    October 11, 2016
  6. I read the first chapter and then abandoned it. It was a dull opening with a conversation in the beach with a guy about jellyfish. As for the title, whoever came up with that needs a kick up,the roverbisl. My or diction – it has no chance of winning ( I might be proved wrong since stranger things happen in the Booker)


    October 12, 2016
    • I won’t be picking it for the win but I do think you are wrong about its odds. I think it has one of the highest odds for making the prize of all the books according to betting sites like William Hill although that doesn’t mean they are right. I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I will say that for me the brilliance of the book was in part due to its clever use of symbolism (something you may not have been able to pick up from reading just the first chapter). The scene with the jellyfish is important and significant not because of its surface story but for the underlying meaning, the ties to mythology (medusas being the Spanish word for Jellyfish), and ways in which the jellyfish stings reflected what was going on in the protagonists inner life.


      October 12, 2016
  7. This is the only one from the shortlist that I have read so far. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I recognise everything that Jen, Nicole, BW, and Kate love about it, but I’m with Andrew on it being too languid.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 14, 2016

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