The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

Just as it had happened with Things I don’t want know, I fell in love with this cover as soon as I saw it. The black and white picture against a vivid colour is a strong mixture of past and present that can also be lived on Levy’s writing.

Why I hadn’t bought it before? I have no idea. But I knew I would read them and I knew I would buy them the very first time I saw them. So how did I finally come across the decision of finally giving it a change? In Man Booker 50 Festival. It was the very first talk on Sunday, 11 o’clock and as usual I am great with faces and names, separately. With my notebook on my hand, my eyes try to adjust to the darkness and scrabbling the panel’s names. My awe rises with all the mental connections I am making, between books and authors. I remember thinking, ‘this panel could not be better’. I also remember thinking how strong Deborah Levy’s presence on stage was, even before realizing who she was. Which, let’s be honest was quite late. I probably stared for awhile because she smiled at me, right on the second row. The way she talked about her work was marvellous and her tone revealed her devotion to what she is accomplishing- constructing a female character that does not exist yet. That is real. That is her. I also remember her pearls. And all of these details turn out to be important when I first encounter her words in The Cost of Living.

After the talk I was supposed to run to my creative writing workshop with Kamila Shamsie on ‘How to set a scene’. Yet, I could not loose the opportunity of buy The Sellout and have it sign. And it’s in the queue that I realize whose Deborah we have been talking about for an hour in the darkness. I take her book instantly, a beautiful yellow hardcover. Immediately I want to buy the blue one as well, but it’s not available. When I take the books to sign I tremble with excitement and nerves. I believe I’ve never been as close to an author, to a high praised author before. After the autograph I only have time to tell her, ‘please keep this amazing job. We need it’.

After reading the book I am happy for having chosen the right words. We do need the construction of a real female character. And that is Deborah Levy.

Her divorce and leaving her house is placed as the beginning of this second yellowish part. A woman who has been taking care of her family and now still has to in a small apartment with particular corridors, which she names ‘Corridors of Love’.

The small daily details and how she gets through them run away from the expected cycle the writer tries to follow. In fact, it seems to me an autobiography that does not follow any rule. It follows a woman real life and struggle step by step. A 21st century novel, with a simple and direct message and a recognisable main character.

The lightness of Levy’s writing contrasts directly to the heavy experiences she is able to share with the reader. And the pearls, the bike, the flat and the meaningful yellow on the cover are elements, which I can guarantee, she presented on that stage.

It is a small and easy-to-read book, which I recommend to everyone who is going through a harsh time.


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