The Cost of Living is my first Deborah Levy book, but I have questions for those of you who have had the good fortune to read others. Are they all this good? Do you always need to read them with a pen and piece of paper at your side to jot down beautiful quotes? Is she actually capable of seeing inside all of us? Why can’t this book be longer?
I found this book by chance, whilst skimming my Facebook feed. This discovery might in fact, be the only good thing to have come from any of my social media activity this year! The Guardian had published excerpts that were so wonderful, that I couldn’t help but buy the book. To tell you the truth, I was surprised at myself. There I was, for the third time since the start of the year, straying from my tried and tested modern fiction path. Twice had Matt Haig tempted me towards non-fiction and now Deborah Levy. What was happening? More puzzlingly, how could these three books be three of my most engaging reads this year?
The Cost of Living narrates a relatively small period of time in the life of Levy, as she leaves her husband of twenty years, moves out of the family home and begins anew, whilst supporting herself and her teenage daughters. Levy has a wonderful way of looking at the world, spotting the patterns and always taking a moment just to observe the situation, no matter how beautiful or ridiculous. She makes you think whilst carrying you along on a sea of beauty, no matter what she is describing, whether it be journeys on her electric bike or plumbing problems. There’s a romance and understanding of the human condition here that is just so gorgeous and yet fun to read, for Levy has a really great sense of humour, particularly when it comes to the irksome or foolish moments in our lives. Whilst reading it, I kept thinking of Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation, not because the two books are alike, but because of how the language and activity of reading this book made me feel. I actively felt better for having this book in my life.
You would be wrong to assume that you need to be a middle aged woman to pick this autobiograhpy up. You simply need to be a fan of wonderful writing.