The day I finished this rather unusual novel coincided with the announcement that ‘Hot Milk’ was on the short-list for the Man Booker Prize. This in no way impacts on my review – if anything, it makes me wonder whether I wouldn’t be better off focusing my attention on the ones that didn’t make the list, since I really found myself confused by this novel.
The story, such as I understood it, focuses on 25-year-old Sophia. We are told she has a first-class degree in Anthropology and is working on her doctoral thesis. For such a clever woman, she seems remarkably stupid. When she accompanies her mother to Spain in order to seek further medical intervention for the mysterious ailments that have plagued her mother for years, I can’t understand why she doesn’t leave her to it. The mother is manipulative and the manifestation of her physical ailments seems to come and go depending upon who she is talking to, or what else is happening. Yet Sophia happily accompanies her from appointment to appointment and seems content to do nothing to break out of this debilitating co-dependant relationship.
There are some quirky characters, though I don’t feel I really ever got to see them as anything other than a device to illustrate whatever point Sophia wanted to make about herself at the time.
Throughout the novel I was struck by a number of images or repeated references. I’m certain these were important, but I’m still not certain why. I found this an easy book to read as it is relatively short, and the action is easy to follow. However, the language is richly evocative and I cannot help but feel that it is the kind of novel that I ought to read again in order to try and make more sense of it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to do so.