Have you ever found an author that you just want to recommend to everyone you meet? The type of author that you just want to read over and over again. I found this author in 2012 and I am slowly working through her backlist. The first book I read of hers I loved so much that as soon as I finished it, I turned back to page one and read it again. It is a little sad that she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. No doubt, you have read the title of this post and skimmed the pictures, so you know I am talking about Deborah Levy.
Her book Swimming Home was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2012 and in my opinion was more deserving than Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (I know I am bitter). Levy has this unique style that I cannot really explain; it is razor sharp, witty, wry and intelligent, but it also has a dark-side. If this isn’t enough, her proses are just stunning, lyrical, poetic and bold. That is enough of playing the adjective game; I can’t give you all a copy of one of Deborah Levy’s books but maybe I can convince you to try one of the following.
I recommend everyone start with Swimming Home, not just because it is where I started or because of the Man Booker shortlisting but because it is a pretty safe starting point. Set in a summer villa on the French Riviera, a group of tourists arrive to find a body in the swimming pool. At first they thought she was dead but she is very much alive. This self-proclaimed botanist, Kitty Finch walks out of the pool and injects herself into their holiday. A psychological story of love, this contemporary novel is drenched in Freudian ideas of both desire and dread.
If short stories are more your style, I recommend Black Vodka, a collection of ten stories about relationships, sadness, love, being alone and bitterness. This collection really brings out Levy’s views on philosophical ideas, especially when it comes to existentialism. While she was born in South Africa and now resides in England; the stories in Black Vodka, like most of her books, have a very strong European feel to them.
Thanks to the gaining momentum for the Man Booker nomination, a lot of Deborah Levy’s books are being republished. Her 1995 novel The Unloved was edited and republished earlier this year. A group of self-indulgent European tourists decide to celebrate Christmas in a remote French chateau. However during their stay one of them is brutally murdered and the unloved child Tatiana knows who did it. The subsequent investigation into this death turns more into an examination of love, desire and rage. This is a shocking and exciting novel, full of characters you can’t help but suspect of murder.
If that isn’t enough to get you started she also has a collection of essays on the writing life called Things I Don’t Want to Know. Also the beautiful new hardcover edition of her poetry called An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell was released this month. I am so glad she has more books for me to discover and enjoy and I hope she has many more in the future. Deborah Levy is such an underrated author in my opinion but I hope many people out there are willing to give her a go.